Why we need to keep talking about Brexit

“But a ‘no deal’ situation could see more companies go bust, more mass redundancies and much more hardship and poverty.” Amid the coronavirus crisis, it has been difficult to look too far into the future at other crises heading our way. Brexit and the issue of ‘no deal’ is set to rear its ugly head once again in the coming weeks and months, with further disruption on the cards if a trade deal cannot be agreed with the EU before the end of the transition period on 31 December. Green Party Deputy Leader Amelia Womack explains why holding the government to account of Brexit is more important than ever.

Amelia Womack
Amelia Womack
Amelia Womack

“There is no plan for no deal because we are going to get a great deal,” said then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in 2017. As prime minister he then promised the deal just needed putting in the microwave to get it ready. Now, we are just days away from Downing Street’s deadline and we face the real possibility of there being no trade deal between the UK and the EU.

Should the deadline pass without a deal, a fate which some now see as inevitable, there may be a scramble for a deal over the summer. However, we can expect to spend the next few months watching politicians and businesses preparing for a real possibility that there will be no deal agreed ready for the end of the transition period on 31 December and gradually we will begin to build a true picture of what that will mean.

At this point it’s hard to imagine or sensibly judge what disruptions this will cause to our day-to-day lives, nor the risks it will pose to our society. With so many people out of work following the coronavirus outbreak we need to see job creation, ideally in green industries as the Green Party has been calling for as part of a Green New Deal. But a ‘no deal’ situation could see more companies go bust, more mass redundancies and much more hardship and poverty.

Are we going to face another year with supermarkets struggling to keep sufficient supplies on the shelves? Should we expect tariffs to push up prices? Do we think factories will close, unable to export their goods and import their components as quickly and cheaply as other states?

The coronavirus outbreak, and the UK Government's abysmal handling of it, has left so many people looking forward to welcoming the end of 2020, with hopes for a much better 2021.

However, we now face the fear of starting the new year with immediate disruptions to trade and weakened migration rights, workers’ rights, human rights and environmental protection as our desperate prime minister looks for new trade deals with the US and others who may want access to our markets but with lowered standards.

The EU had its problems, it really did, but it was a driving force for raising our standards in areas including green legislation. For example, the UK was the last European country to stop dumping raw sewage into the sea. And before we joined the EU, we were losing 15 per cent of our protected nature sites a year and our pollution was causing acid rain.

‘No deal’ could mean a significant gap in the enforcement of environmental law across the UK.

Farming unions across the UK have warned of the “catastrophic impacts” of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, due to a combination of costly market disruption in the short term, increased tariffs on UK agri-food exports to the EU market, and reduced tariffs on agri-food imports from non-EU countries produced to standards that are lower than those faced by UK farmers.

After years of campaigning against Brexit and analysing the risks many, many times it’s easy to feel jaded and like we have no more options. But we must keep fighting against ‘no deal’ and there are two main reasons why.

Firstly, while it’s easy to assume that ‘no deal’ would be a sign of failure, for a populist and right-wing nationalist leader such as Johnson, this will be claimed as a badge of honour. He will claim he stuck up for the rights of the UK against the evil EU empire.

We need to do everything we can, including supporting Caroline Lucas and our Green Party peers in Parliament, to point out that this is not what was promised by the Brexit campaign or our leaders who said that a deal would be easy and in everyone’s interest. We need to hold them to account and keep pointing out that ‘no deal’ is a choice.

Secondly, where many people will lose out massively as a result of ‘no deal’, there will be a small majority who profit hugely. Just like some of those companies who have come out of the pandemic with lucrative contracts that seem to have been awarded with very little process, Brexit will create a new emergency that will be used to shift wealth. We must keep asking challenging questions, support journalists, campaigners and politicians who are helping us to keep track of the movement of contracts and money, and help provide a voice for those who are struggling financially.