There can’t now be many in the country who think that Brexit hasn’t been a car-crash and a national humiliation.
Despite insistence from Michael Gove before the referendum that “we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want”, the government and in particular the Prime Minister have been not just incompetent, but verging on the criminally negligent – putting the whole country’s future in terrible jeopardy.
The Prime Minister has been utterly incapable of getting her deal through Parliament or have it re-negotiated with the EU. The Brexit deadlock has become the outward face of Britain in 2019, with the impasse at Parliament broadcast around the world. Our politics has become a farce and our Parliament an international laughing stock.
But the Brexit deadlock isn’t just an embarrassment. It isn’t just dangerous because of the threat of a cliff-edge Brexit. It’s a dangerous distraction, a wall of noise eclipsing the heightened warnings about the looming climate catastrophe that threatens not just our country but our planet. This is a time of record temperatures, wildfires and young people leaving school to strike for the climate, yet our Parliament’s time and energy is being spent elsewhere.
Last Friday, students across the UK showed real leadership, left their classrooms and marched for climate action. Their call was as simple as it was clear. They wanted politicians in Westminster to take the radical, common sense steps required to stave off environmental catastrophe, which the UN says we have until 2030 to prevent. But Westminster is so broken by Brexit that we still have no idea what our country will be doing in a year’s time, never mind the next decade.
Despite the real threat of calamity and the anger on the streets, we have seen no action. 610 MPs skipped the debate on climate change at the start of the month, the first time the house had debated the subject in nearly two years. The government seems nowhere near declaring a climate emergency, as over forty councils have now done across the UK. For all of their bluster lionising ‘the will of the people’, that sentiment hasn’t been extended to the young people marching for climate justice. So strong is Brexit’s hold over our politics, there simply isn’t time to even properly acknowledge – let alone tackle – other pressing issues.
With the urgency of climate change, there isn’t time to twiddle our thumbs waiting for Parliament to get its act together. It has become increasingly clear that this decision can’t be left up to Westminster politicians. We need to sort this now. And that’s why we need to give the decision back to the people. We need a People’s Vote on the final deal. Let’s give the people the final say on how we go forward and ask whether they want May’s deal. If so, then we can stop the pointless parliamentary procrastination over what Brexit should look like. But if not, then let’s stay in the EU and address the matters like the climate emergency that are so much bigger than Brexit – before it becomes too late.
But the People’s Vote will not be handed willingly to us by Parliament, this much is clear. On Wednesday, Theresa May announced her intention to only extend Article 50 by two months, not enough time to hold a referendum. So now we need to go out and demand change, to demand Parliament lets the people decide once and for all what they want.
So I’m asking you to come join me tomorrow at the People’s Vote rally in London. We’ll march through the streets of our capital and make it clear to Theresa May that the will of the people is not represented by this Conservative Government or the small-minded Conservative agitators in the European Research Group. Alone our voices can be drowned out but together we will let out a mighty roar that cannot be ignored. It’s time to take back our future. It’s time for a People’s Vote.
Jonathan Bartley is Co-leader of the Green Party and a Lambeth councillor.