It is now a year since people in the UK voted to leave the EU by a small majority. Greens continue to campaign against any exit from the EU that will result in economic and social damage or worsen the state of our environment.
This is the first of regular updates with a Green perspective on the Brexit process as the negotiations between the UK and EU27 progress. We will also reflect on the political implications to any developments.
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Tories and Labour – the Brexit mad hatters’ tea party
Labour appear to be following the Tories by offering a ‘cake and eat it’ approach to Brexit. The fact that Corbyn sacked three Labour frontbenchers who voted in favour of an amendment calling for Britain to remain in the customs union and single market, shows the mess Labour are in over Brexit. I have written about this here.
Proposing to leave the single market while continuing to enjoy access to the European market on the same terms as EU members is totally unrealistic. Many Labour MEPs know this to be the case. My letter, published in the Guardian, explains why this is utter folly.
The UK remains deeply divided over Brexit. According to a recent YouGov poll, by the slimmest of margins, more people now think in hindsight that leaving the EU is the wrong thing to do. What is clear is that there is little appetite for the Tories’ hard Brexit, with more people believing access to trade with the EU is more important than controlling immigration. A recent Survation poll also shows 53% now believe there should be a second vote on Brexit. This is exactly what the Green Party are calling for, something we have termed a ‘ratification referendum’ which would enable the public to vote on the terms of any Brexit deal – with an option to remain in the EU.
Who is really giving back control?
No one can claim to represent the people when they don’t talk to anyone about what their plan is. But Theresa May is doing just that with her ‘behind closed doors’ Brexit plan. Meanwhile, the EU have published their negotiating position for all to see. One of the key arguments used by the Leave campaign during the referendum was to ‘Take Back Control’ from ‘Brussels bureaucrats.’ Who now looks undemocratic? Who is really giving back control? Campaign group, Unlock Democracy is calling for a ‘democratic Brexit’.
The threat to health service from ending freedom of movement
Conservative and Labour plans to end free movement will leave the country struggling to fill places in the HNS and care sectors according to recent analysis by the GMB union. The research shows the number of EU nationals working in health and social care has increased by 72% in the last eight years and there are now 209,000 EU nationals working in the sector – up from just 121,000 in 2009. EU nationals now make up more than five per cent of the entire health and social care workforce – including one in ten care home staff. This report follows a leaked Department of Health study which revealed that ending freedom of movement and clamping down in immigration would leave the NHS short of 40,000 nurses by 2026. The surest way to guarantee our hospitals and care services are adequately staffed is to immediately grant rights for all EU nationals living in the UK to remain here, and to continue to allow freedom of movement. Greens are unequivocal on this – we will continue to defend free movement. More info here
Brexit and small businesses
Since last year’s referendum, I have been in constant communications with businesses and the organisations that represent them. I have argued that they need to show leadership to their members who may not be fully informed about the impact of Brexit on their businesses; especially a hard Brexit involving leaving the single market and customs union and ending free movement. I am therefore delighted to see business organisations coming out strongly against hard Brexit since the general election, first in a joint letter and then in a survey published by EEB, the manufacturers’ organisation.
The idea of ‘associate citizenship’
Many constituents have written to me about the idea of associate citizenship. My colleague, Jill Evans, who is a Plaid Cymru MEP and part of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, commissioned a report which makes an interesting contribution to the debate around UK citizens retaining their EU citizenship, or having the right to become associate EU citizens, after the UK leaves the EU. The report makes five key conclusions on protecting EU citizenship and related rights. Further details here. My latest response to constituents who have written to me on this issue can be found here.
A simple guide to the Single Market and Customs Union
Finally for this addition of enews – a brief guide to what exactly the Single Market and Customs Union are.
This aims to break down all barriers to trading across all EU countries. It eliminates tariffs and reduces costs and administrative burdens by applying one set of rules across all member states. Single market rules require the free movement from one EU member country to another of goods, people, services and capital (the so-called ‘four freedoms’). It is possible to be a member of the single market but not a member of the EU, as is the case for Norway. Further details here
As well as the single market the EU also operates as a customs union for its members. This means they decide not to impose tariffs (taxes on imports) on each other’s goods and agree to impose common external tariffs on goods from countries outside their customs union. Once goods have cleared customs in one country they can be shipped to others in the union without further tariffs being imposed. It is possible to be a member of the customs union without being a member of the EU, as is the case for Turkey. Further details here