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Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:37 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 5:37 pm, 27th February 2019

It is such an honour to follow Alberto Costa. He has handled this issue so well, and he has added so much to the reputation of this place by how he has dealt with his amendment. I thank him, and I am proud to have signed the amendment. He may be right that there is a convention that PPSs resign when they table an amendment that is not in line with the Government’s thinking but, given that the Government have accepted the amendment, I suggest that the convention is an ass. He should be back in his post, because he is doing a sterling job.

It seems that yesterday the Prime Minister did just enough to prevent resignations from her ministerial ranks and to keep her sordid show on the road for a few more days, but the vote she promised on 13 March does not take no deal off the table. On the contrary, it leaves no deal on the table for another two weeks. I fail to understand how that deliberately created uncertainty is supposed to help employers and small businesses in my Brighton constituency, or indeed across the country, to make the decisions they need to make.

It is simply incredible that, with just 30 days left on the clock, this Prime Minister is still prepared to entertain the economic and social catastrophe of no deal. Worse still, my constituents will have been horrified to hear her say yesterday that she could

“make a success of a no deal.”—[Official Report, 26 February 2019;
Vol. 655, c. 166.]

Make no mistake, a no-deal exit would tear us from every EU law, instrument and agency overnight, and we would have nothing to replace them with. The Government’s own assessment of the economic impact of no deal, published yesterday, reinforces just what a catastrophe it would be.

My constituents deserve better than that, as does the country, and it does not have to be this way. There are alternatives to this never-ending game of chicken between the Prime Minister and the various factions of her party. The best, most democratic option is to give the public a final say on their future. In 2016, voters could not and did not express any opinion on the terms on which the UK should leave the EU, because those terms were completely unknown then, not least because they had yet to be negotiated with the EU27. What is certainly the case is that no one was voting for this dangerous, blindfold Brexit now offered by the Prime Minister, one that was rejected by this House on 15 January. The Prime Minister keeps saying that a public vote would fail to “respect” the 2016 referendum result, but that is the same as saying that electing a new Government fails to respect the previous election result. This Government have spent almost three years negotiating what they believe to the best possible way of implementing the 2016 result and now the people should get a chance to say whether or not they think this Government have done enough. That does not seem to be radical to me.

Finally, I wish to say a few words about the amendment on environmental protection standing in my name. Yesterday, the Prime Minister talked again of ensuring that Brexit would not lead to any lowering of environmental protection standards. That is all very well but we know that such promises of non-regression are entirely worthless without concrete action to ensure that those standards can be effectively enforced. As I and many others have said repeatedly in this House over the past two years, that requires the embedding of environmental principles in UK law, and the establishment of an independent and adequately resourced environmental body or bodies across the UK, to replace the roles of the European Commission and European Court of Justice in terms of oversight of and, crucially, compliance with environmental law. So my amendment notes that the Environment Secretary’s

“proposals for an Office for Environmental Protection in England need to be significantly strengthened to guarantee its independence from Government, include climate change within its remit and provide it with the necessary powers to ensure the monitoring, reporting, oversight and enforcement of environmental law”.