The will of the people

With progress towards Brexit raising more questions than the Conservatives can answer, co-leader Jonathan Bartley explains why the Green Party is calling for a People's Poll on the final EU exit deal

Jonathan Bartley
Thu 14 Jun 2018

I've enjoyed canvassing in this year's local elections. It's been an amazing opportunity to talk about the fantastic work our Green councillors have done and it's been great to knock on doors and talk to ordinary people about what affects them on a day to day basis. The motto of the Green Party around the world is 'Think Global, Act Local' and it's been a privilege to travel around the country and getting our message out there.

But we must not forget the global aspect of our mission statement. Despite the amazing success of our local election campaign, we must not lose sight of the calamity that Brexit threatens to be. This government is hurling us towards a calamitous Brexit based on pure ideology. The Prime Minister is at the mercy of her backbenchers and the DUP. They will not stand for any compromise on Brexit.

We're not leaving the Customs Union or the Single Market because it makes economic sense (it doesn't) but because Theresa May can't risk facing a leadership challenge from Jacob Rees- Mogg. Much like her predecessor David Cameron, May is not a leader. Her instinct is to keep her team together, not to improve the lives of Britons. This is why the Conservatives have been so extreme in these negotiations.

We've already seen the fragility of the UK's position in these negotiations. In principle, the government agrees with the EU on the border we share with Ireland. Nobody wants a hard border, or so we are told. But when the Tories decided to form a government propped up by the DUP, they undermined that position. The DUP are unionists; they will always see any attempt to diverge Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK as a fundamental attack on their identity.

Due to her party's position on this, DUP Leader Arlene Foster will not countenance a hard border in the Irish Sea, despite the fact that this is the only answer anyone has come up with to keep Ireland and Northern Ireland in regulatory alignment as outlined by the Good Friday Agreement. Any deal that ends regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK will be stopped by the DUP and any deal that ends regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and Ireland will be stopped by the Irish. As long as May's Coalition of Chaos limps on, there is no answer to the Irish border question.

So this brings us to the idea of the People's Poll on Brexit. First things first, it's important to make clear that we don't want a second run of the referendum campaign. What we're calling for is a vote on the final deal on the negotiations. When the country voted in 2016, there weren't clear outcomes on the table. Yes, we were asked if we supported leaving the EU, but nobody knew what that would entail. Now that we know where that path is leading, now that we know the terrible damage such a move would do to our economy and to our rights, we deserve the right to vote on it. The Green Party will be officially supporting the People's March for a final vote on any Brexit deal on 23 June, with more information available at: https://www.peoples-vote.uk/march.

The Conservatives have argued that such a vote would divide the country. They don't seem to understand that the country has already been divided by misinformation. Once Leave voters see that the Conservatives haven't been able to deliver on the ?350 million a week for the NHS, how likely are they to support a bad deal? Once the people of Britain see that there is no answer to the border with our friends in Ireland, will they carry on with a move that the Prime Minister herself didn't even support two years ago? Or will they go with another option? The Leave campaign ran on the false notion that a vote for Brexit would take back control. Now that we've seen how little control this vote will give us, let's take back control ourselves.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed – Mahatma Gandhi