I was honoured to recently join the Twinning events and ceremony between Newbury, Berkshire and Carcaixent, Spain, as part of my role as an MEP for the region, and also in relation to the education and culture committee of which I am a member. It has been a joy to see the connections between Newbury and the twin towns grow over the past few years. Twinning is a shared European project and is a fantastic exchange of culture and people. Such opportunities are invaluable and transcend political ideas. I love this movement that has kept doors open to our neighbours across Europe.
This unique method of promoting links of exchange and co-operation between towns and communities has been a driving force of growth and development of the European Union. Twinning in Europe has created a dense network of over seventeen thousand links. Bringing many opportunities, including bringing citizens from different countries and cultures closer together. Twinning is the expression of European unity and identity built from the grass roots. It brings people together, creates friendships and romances. It is perhaps the most visible form of European co-operation, with thousands of towns and villages across Europe. The movement started in 1945, instigated by mayors and citizens who vowed that Europe should never again be torn apart by war.
The theme of the conference: ‘Brexit: the price of divorce’. I was invited to speak alongside Richard Benyon MP for Newbury, George Chichester from Strutt and Parker and renowned artist Johannes Von Stumm. Listening to the impact that Brexit will have on the agricultural and creative industries was staggering. With some estimates suggesting that up to 30% of UK farms will go out of business, and we have already seen the impact on the European Youth Orchestra which has relocated from London to Italy.
As a Liberal Democrat MEP, I am working to stop Brexit. The price of Brexit is unacceptable, and I want to work with Europe, not walk away. Brexit has not happened yet, and aside from the damage it is doing to our relationships with our closest neighbours, it has already caused major damage to UK jobs, cohesion and the economy. The economy is now 2% smaller than it would have been if the United Kingdom had chosen to remain in the bloc, according to the Bank of England. Some calculate that economic losses have already reached £66 billion, which is more than the infamous Brexit divorce bill.
The Twinning ceremony was a moving affair, with both Mayors giving speeches on unity and collaboration. In the Mayor of Carcaixent’s speech he pointed out that ‘It may seem like a symbolic ceremony, but it is more than that; it shows our commitment to the idea of a Europe of the people, seen most visibly in the twinning of our towns’.
The EU is the greatest political success story in modern history. It has guaranteed peace and prosperity on the European continent. Twinning is a fantastic expression of this unity and collaboration. Congratulations to both Newbury and Carcaixent on your twinning.