Green leaders accuse Labour of ‘trading their red flag for a white flag’ on Brexit

Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley called hard Brexit 'a right-wing coup'

Image: Elizabeth Wainwright

In a joint speech at the Green Party’s Spring Conference in Liverpool, the Green Party co-leaders Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas MP presented the Greens as the main opposition to the Prime Minister’s ‘extreme Brexit’.

Jonathan Bartley described Theresa May’s Brexit plans as ‘a right-wing coup’, saying:

“None of this was in their manifesto. None of this was in the referendum question put to the country last year.”

Both co-leaders also challenged the Labour Party leadership.

Bartley said:

“Where, in all this, where are the official opposition? The Labour Party has failed in its most basic duty to hold the government to account.” 

The Greens also accused Jeremy Corbyn of ‘running scared of some in [his] own Party, of the right-wing media and of UKIP.

“They’ve traded their red flag for a white flag.”

Turning to the Lib Dems, he said:

“No amount of opposition to a hard Brexit will wipe the slate clean. Trust has to be earned and the Lib-Dems have let people down — on the NHS, on student fees, and on austerity.”

Caroline Lucas argued the Greens were now the party for Britain’s disaffected youth:

“Young people deserve a party that will say loudly and clearly: freedom of movement is your right, tuition fees must be scrapped and private rents brought under control.”

The co-leaders pitched Greens across Europe as the ones fighting the far-right — most recently in Austria and the Netherlands, while Bartley paid tribute to those who lost their lives in the Westminster attack last week, adding that ‘Greens will not let terrorists, tyrants or tricksters write the story of our times. And we will not stand by and let the politics of hatred win.’

February saw the Green Party win a local by-election against UKIP with 35 per cent of the vote, with the Forest of Dean’s Sid Phelps taking GPEW’s first seat from UKIP anywhere in the UK.

Caroline Lucas also took the opportunity to form a new response to globalisation.

“Trump and Farage are right about one thing.  Globalisation has let people down. Some have already started to talk about progressive patriotism.”

She spoke of it as ‘a way for people to belong that is rooted in place. Turning the rootless ideology of globalisation on its head, whilst also being the very antithesis of nationalism as racism and exclusion.’

The wide-ranging speech saw the party introduce new policy on inheritance tax — with calls for it to be based on the wealth of recipient, not the donor — while the party also launched calls for a new Environmental Protection Act: ‘one that takes everything good about EU law, and then goes even further’, according to Bartley.

Both leaders were introduced by the European Green Party’s co-spokesperson Reinhard Bütikofer, an MEP and prominent German politician.

Contrasting with EU council president Donald Tusk’s comments to Britain (‘We miss you already’), Bütikofer said:

“We’re not going to miss you – we will continue to stand together and fight for the same values.”

Josiah Mortimer is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

Green Party spring conference runs until Sunday. The European Green Party and Global Greens are also holding their Congresses alongside it – making it the largest Green Party coence ever.

2 Responses to “Green leaders accuse Labour of ‘trading their red flag for a white flag’ on Brexit”

  1. Chester Draws

    “None of this was in their manifesto. None of this was in the referendum question put to the country last year.”

    Only since they lost have Remainers started to pretend that a vote on leaving was never a vote on leaving. That somehow a question “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” is somehow about anything other than leaving the EU.

    Article 50 has been enacted on the basis that the referendum result required leaving the EU. Nothing else has yet been decided to require further questioning of the people.

    If the Scots vote to leave the UK, as is likely. Will the Greens insist that every step of the way have further referenda on the same basis?

    If the Greens wish to be taken seriously, then a first start is not re-writing history and facts to suit themselves. Including that the majority of the people voted to leave the EU and that Corbyn, the favourite of the Left, was never pro-EU, and neither is much of the hard Left.

    The co-leaders pitched Greens across Europe as the ones fighting the far-right.

    In their dreams. They do the most shouting about it, which is not the same thing at all.

    In order to defeat the far right it will be necessary for the moderate right to win those votes back. Those people are not going to suddenly become Green supporters. A few might move to working class based parties, but not while they are wedded to policies of pro-immigration or seen as urban elite based.

    If anything the strident and unrealistic policies of the Greens repels people who want more industry — because that means jobs for them and their children — not the Green fantasy of de-industrialisation.

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