A truly democratic Brexit process means more choice, not less, writes Keith Taylor MEP
Everybody has succumbed to an impulse purchase at least once in their lives. But thankfully, if buyer’s remorse sets in and you change your mind later, most retailers offer a no-quibble money back guarantee. Similarly, if your impulse buy doesn’t do what its supposed to or isn’t as advertised, you have also right to a full refund. Either way, you’re protected.
That, in one tortured metaphor, is what I am fighting for as a plaintiff in the so-called Dublin Case: a Brexit money back guarantee. The case is asking for clarification on whether Britain has the legal right to rescind our Article 50 notification if we change our mind about Brexit or feel like we’ve been the victims of false advertising.
I am proud to stand alongside two other Green Party litigants joining me in this action: the co-leader for the Party in England and Wales, Jonathan Bartley, and Northern Ireland Party leader, Steven Agnew.
It is no secret that I passionately campaigned for a Remain vote in the EU referendum, outlining how our membership of the EU has made us fairer, safer, and greener; I felt a profound sense of disappointment at the result.
I was not alone, almost 80 per cent of Green Party supporters and more than 48 per cent of my constituents voted to Remain in the EU. That doesn’t mean I am blind to the fact that, by a slim majority, Brits voted to Leave the EU.
However, the narrow victory for leaving the EU certainly does not give Theresa May a mandate for the extreme form of Brexit she is pursuing. The Prime Minister is attempting to conjure, from a tight referendum result, a phantom majority in support of ejecting Britain from the Single Market; sacrificing our economy at the altar of ending free movement.
Yanking the country out of the Single Market while attempting to negotiate a raft of bilateral trade deals is a reckless gamble. Not only will it mean British businesses, 99 per cent of whom are small and medium-sized, will lose easy access to a market of 500m customers, but we also run the risk of losing the crucial environmental and social protections that come with membership of the Single Market.
The EU is responsible for about 80% of all environmental laws in the UK. These vital legal protections currently ensure we have clean water and clean beaches and help safeguard the wildlife we hold so dear. They also help us hold our Government to account for its failure to tackle the deadly air pollution crisis.
Laws like the Birds and Habitats directives are driving positive conservation action in the UK. Protected wildlife sites were being lost at a rate of 15 per cent a year before EU action; now that rate has fallen to just one per cent a year.
The EU is also the source of many of our most important rights at work, including non-discrimination protections, maternity leave, paid holidays and rest days; safeguards that speak to fundamental questions of economic equality. These rights are put at risk by leaving the EU. The Conservative government has already shown it is willing to attack employment rights that are not currently protected by the EU.
I believe Theresa May and Philip Hammond’s proposals to send the country hurtling towards an extreme Brexit will see the UK as the ultimate loser in a global race to the bottom on everything from environmental regulations to workers’ rights.
Theresa May claims: ‘the British people have united to back Brexit’. They haven’t. Far from it. The mandate for an extreme Brexit is non-existent. According to the latest polls, just 39 per cent of the British public support the Prime Minister’s vision of an extreme Brexit. Meanwhile, 48 per cent of people want Britain to either remain a member of the EU or, at least, maintain a close relationship with our European neighbours.
Yet the Government says there is no other option: we either leave the single market and negotiate a new deal with the EU or end up with no deal at all, in which case the UK will become a tax haven outside Europe.
The Government is using a slim referendum majority as cover to collude with the agenda of the far right, and so hurl Britain towards a dystopian future for which most people did not vote.
I believe we can do better than this. Which is why I am fighting in the courts for the British people to be given the choice they are being denied. The EU referendum should have been the start of a democratic process, not the end of one. As Greens, we believe the British people should have the final say on the Brexit deal, once it is clear what the outcome of the negotiations are. If the public changes their mind on Brexit, they must be able to put a stop to the process.
The thing about a money back guarantee is it’s better to have it and not need it, than not have it all.
Keith Taylor is Green Party MEP for the South EastSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.