Uk’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:07 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 6:07 pm, 13th March 2019

It is always a great pleasure to follow Mr Grieve, who speaks with such wisdom on this issue. If the social and economic catastrophe that is no deal were being caused by some kind of natural disaster, there would be a collective outpouring of grief and concern. They would be a huge amounts of Government action to try to mitigate it, and there would no doubt be offers of international aid as well. The fact that this catastrophe is being so actively, willingly and even, by some, enthusiastically chosen is the height of masochistic self-indulgence. Doubtless psychologists will spend many years analysing exactly why this psychosis came to infect so many members of our ruling class at this time and exactly how we ended up with this concept of masochism as revolt.

The desire to create such chaos, and the exhilaration that comes from it, is perhaps understandable in those who will not be affected by the results—those who can move the investments they might be lucky enough to have to Ireland, to take a random example—but this is certainly going to hurt our constituents, who are in many cases already struggling to get by. It is even more shocking that this is being deliberately embraced at a time when we know of the illegalities associated with the leave campaign and the evidence of Russian interference. I was looking at Twitter a few moments ago. As we are here debating no deal, people like Aaron Banks—the biggest donor to the leave campaign; the biggest donor ever in British history—is busy going round the European Governments and lobbying them to block any UK request for an extension of article 50. So let us be clear that we are being played for fools here and that we will be responsible for this if we do not wake up and notice it. And the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has some gall to stand at the Dispatch Box as though he is completely independent of all this and as though he is not complicit in it and was not an architect of it. That is the height of absolute shamelessness.

We have heard so much about the economic costs of a no-deal Brexit, and the effect on constituents in Brighton will be no exception. I have been lobbied by so many individuals, families, businesses and universities. The University of Sussex, where one in four staff is an EU citizen, is already having problems with recruitment and retention, research grants and so on, and the same goes for both big and small companies.

This is about much more than the economy, however. I worry that a no-deal Brexit would make it harder even to begin to address some of many reasons why people voted to leave in the first place. Of course, people chose to vote to leave for many different reasons, but a good many of them were voting to say that the status quo is intolerable, that the inequality in this country is grotesque and that they want their communities to have a say in the future. The idea that any or all that will be easier to address if we leave with no deal is fanciful and irresponsible.

We need an honest conversation with the people of this country. We need to level with them. We need a new social contract, better jobs, higher-quality public services and investment in the green economy. We need people of all backgrounds and communities to be treated with respect and given the opportunity and the power to thrive. We need genuinely to give back control to people. We need to put young people at the heart of all this. We need that kind of future. We need a green new deal, not the Prime Minister’s failed deal or, worse still, no deal.