Brexit – what next?

Politicians in the UK have largely wasted the last four years discussing border arrangements, rather than the icecaps melting, rivers flooding and forests burning. The environment and our rapidly changing climate doesn’t recognise legal boundaries or custom checks. Despite the admirable efforts of Extinction Rebellion, Parliament has made few actual changes to end or even limit the damage we are doing to our planet. That has to change and I can only hope with January 31st out of the way, we can focus on promoting the New Green Deal and other essential changes.

Of course, we need to work with our main trading partners in the EU, to build solutions together to stop runaway climate chaos. With our government hosting the COP 26 at the end of this year, the UK will be centre stage at the climate talks and we have to at least match, or preferably exceed, what the EU countries are pledging to do. Countries like China are more likely to change, if a huge economic power like Europe is also willing to change. If Trump is still the President in December, then this UK cooperation with Europe over climate change becomes even more vital.

The type of Brexit being sought by this government will not solve the problems of globalisation, poverty and disconnection that led many people to vote leave. Instead of local communities and people taking back control, we have an Executive power grab by a right-wing Cabinet, with Ministers granting themselves all kinds of powers to make decisions that circumvent Parliamentary scrutiny.

The secrecy being imposed on the government’s trade negotiations will increase this Ministerial power as changes are discussed behind closed doors to workers rights, animal welfare standards and environmental protections. We need to stop any deregulation by stealth.

We need to build agreement amongst all progressives, from socialists to liberal democrats, on a package of democratic reforms. This will include devolution, regional government, an elected second chamber and of course, PR. To find radical solutions to the genuine concerns of marginalised voters.

Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement unfortunately watered down the environmental protections that were part of Theresa May’s Agreement. In short, a binding commitment to maintain a level playing field on the environment has been replaced by a non-binding aspiration to prevent the UK’s regulations getting any worse than they are now.  If the government is serious about its environmental standards it should re-commit the UK to always having the same environmental standards as Europe’s – if theirs are improved, ours would be as well. We need to stay closely aligned with the EU if we are to prosper as a country.

In Parliament, the greens will continue to push for freedom of movement, a privilege we are proud to champion because it offers the chance to live, work and form relationships across 27 other countries. From the NHS to our hospitality and construction sectors, EU workers have contributed to our country’s prosperity for decades. We should recognise their contribution and not build a system that discriminates based on an individual’s wealth. We are a richer and more interesting country thanks to the people that have come here and made it their home.