The government’s ‘Brexit freedoms bill’ will pave the path to the UK rejoining the EU, former co-leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas has claimed, amid polls which show over 40 per cent of Brits want to be in it again.
The new bill, published by Liz Truss’s new administration in September, would see all EU-derived laws removed at the end of 2023, including 570 environmental regulations. While the government could keep or even amend some regulations, it has not revealed any plans to do so.
In an opinion piece published by Metro on Wednesday, Lucas recited the words of Liz Truss six years ago, who said: “Every parent wants their children to grow up in a healthy environment with clean water, fresh air and thriving natural wonders. Being part of the EU helps protect these precious resources and spaces.”
Lucas wrote: “And how ironic those words ended up being, as this Government’s Orwellian Brexit Freedoms Bill launches an attack on nature like we’ve never seen before.”
The former Green Party co-leader went onto explain how getting rid of the environmental laws could destroy habitat regulations which have protected the UK’s wildlife and green spaces for 30 years, while also allowing nitrates and phosphates to be released into rivers, and pesticide protections to be scrapped.
“It doesn’t end there,” she wrote.
The MP argued that part of this “Brexit-fuelled assault on nature” could also see the post-EU Environmental Land Management Scheme scrapped – a programme that would have replaced the old payments for production with support for farmers and landowners to enhance nature by creating rare habitats, as well as slashing emissions.
“The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) claimed last month that they’re ‘not scrapping the schemes’,” Lucas wrote, “but I won’t hold my breath.”
The MP touched on other issues she has with the Tory Party’s new plans, such as “investment zones” which could loosen planning laws to protect nature, threats to the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, and – of course – the chancellor’s infamous mini budget – with Lucas arguing this government has “never looked more out of control”.
Lucas said the cost of living crisis provided a “supposed opportunity to demonstrate Britain ‘taking back control’ – yet as energy bills spiral, businesses struggle and prices rise ever higher, all it’s done is expose that winning slogan as nothing more than a fraudulent soundbite.”
But the MP noted how, according to a September poll by YouGov, 46 per cent of Brits now want the UK to be in the EU, compared to 36 per cent who don’t.
“This margin is clear,” she wrote, “In other words, it seems the six years since the referendum have convinced people working with Europe is more beneficial than working against it.
“And this is why the Greens agreed at our Party Conference last weekend that we would seek to rejoin the EU as soon as the political situation is favourable, and the right terms are available,” she added.
While Lucas acknowledged that a return to the EU will not happen immediately, she argued that re-joining the customs union, signing an EU agreement to protecting humans and wildlife, reintroducing free movement and mirroring EU legislation on workers’ rights were some of the short-team measures that need to be done.
“The Brexit bonfire does nothing to help people through the crises we face right now – a cost of living scandal; spiralling energy bills; a climate and nature emergency,” she added, “It is more cooperation with our closest neighbours – not less – which will help us to rise to those challenges.”