THE BLOG

An Open Letter to Poles in Britain: You Are Welcome Here

14/05/2014 15:35 BST | Updated 14/07/2014 10:59 BST

Dear friends,

I know this year is hugely significant for you. 25 years after the Iron Curtain and a decade since Poland joined the European Union, you have successfully placed yourselves at the heart of Europe. You have proven to be committed Europeans, most recently helping to determine the international response to events in Ukraine.

But 2014 is also the year of the European elections: as EU citizens, you too have a vote in the elections for the European Parliament. As partners in the UK, with an equal say at the ballot box on 22 May, I want Poles in Britain to make their voices heard.

For ten years, Britain has welcomed you as workers, entrepreneurs, friends and neighbours. The Poles I know are open, flexible and ambitious. They work hard, often with too little recognition. Some have been elected as local councillors, and I know another who works for the British government.

But the economic downturn has taken a toll. Populists and anti-Europeans seek scapegoats to blame for our problems, and EU 'migrants' have become a target. Today, our precious right to live and work anywhere in Europe is under threat.

For me, this right is not negotiable. It is at the heart of the Europe I entered politics to defend. It opens opportunities and broadens our horizons. I know, first hand: I'm one of 2 million Brits to have benefited myself, first as an Erasmus student and later working in Brussels. I want everyone to have the same opportunities I've had, whether they are Polish or British.

You make a huge contribution to this country - in economic, social and cultural terms. From Myslovitz to pierogi, I'm a fan. I have no doubt that Britain would be worse off without the contribution of Poles. That's why I am campaigning to defend the rights of Poles and other EU citizens living in the UK to be treated fairly and equally.

On 22 May, there is a lot at stake. This vote will be a mini-referendum on Britain's role in Europe. Anti-European Conservatives and UKIP would threaten our economy and jobs by leaving the EU, while Labour is failing to defend Europe. Polish citizens living in the UK could even lose their rights to live and work freely in Britain.

I want a positive, ambitious Britain, open to Europe and the world. I want us to value the contribution of everyone who makes their home here. There are valid concerns on both sides, but let's not blame each other. Let's discuss the issues and find solutions together. Please use your vote on 22 May. These elections are about your future!

Giles Goodall

Liberal Democrat MEP candidate for South East England