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If we really want to 'take back control', let's begin with our own institutions - such as the House of Lords, and ensure it represents the full spectrum of British society. Photo: ukhouseoflords via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).
If we really want to 'take back control', let's begin with our own institutions - such as the House of Lords, and ensure it represents the full spectrum of British society. Photo: ukhouseoflords via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).
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Take back real control! A Green response to Brexit

Victor Anderson & Rupert Read

18th July 2016

The winning Brexit slogan was 'Take Back Control', write Victor Anderson & Rupert Read. But leaving the EU will only increase the power of corrupt elites unless the UK reforms its own democratic governance, combats the excessive power of corporations, upholds the rights of all its citizens, decentralises its economy, and forges progressive alliances with its European partners.

We ought to get serious about really taking back control. This would mean PR, Lords reform, economic democracy, real devolution within England ... let's call for democracy to be made real in this country!

The loss of the referendum is likely to be a big setback for Green and Left political voices in England and Wales - unless creative ways of responding to it are found. In this short piece, we explore ten such ways:

1. A 'progressive pact'. As many are now recognising, there is now a crying need for a 'Progressive Pact', to bring together those determined not to allow Brexit to entrench the power of the Right.

In Green House think-tank we will be asking questions to both Green and Labour leadership candidates in the coming weeks as to whether they are willing to see the writing on the wall (for electoral politics as usual) - and instead to sign up to negotiations for such a pact. (See our briefing on the topic)

2. Taking back real control. The successful slogan of the Leave campaign was 'Take back control'. We ought to call this bluff, and get serious about really taking back control. This would mean PR, Lords reform, economic democracy, real devolution within England, and much more ... At every turn, let's call for democracy to be made real in this country!

3. A new deal that recognises real concerns on immigration. We should get on the front foot in seeking a new deal for UK with Europe - something like what Norway has but bargaining some movement of labour restrictions in return for some loss of single market access. Any forces on the Left / Green wings of politics who continue to deny that most people in Britain are determined to end EU open-door migration policies are consigning themselves to the dustbin of history (see (5) below).

4. Reinventing Europe for people, not corporations. A bold possibility, depending partly on the response to Brexit in other countries, would be to Reinvent Europe - including shrinking the single currency area - with the aim of the UK going back into a reformed EU in due course (into a non-Eurozone 'outer circle'). Such a possibility should now be actively considered, as Colin Hines has recently argued here on The Ecologist.

5. Protection for people. There must be protection for the rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK, rather than leaving them in uncertainty until negotiations are concluded in over two years time. However, it is also absolutely essential that we understand the concern with immigration, that we don't abuse all Leavers (over half of voters!) as racists, and that we accept withdrawal from unrestricted free movement of labour.

The main drivers of migration are neoliberalism, Middle Eastern wars, manmade climate change, and the consequences of the European single currency. We need to address each of these root causes seriously, but also, meantime, not place on the ordinary working people of this country the burden of having to cope with the effects.

6. Localising economies. It is time to promote a positive version of anti-globalisation: against unrestricted rule of the market, and for greater localisation. It's time to make protecting things a clean word, a good word, again - for 'protectionism' to go progressive.

Brexit may provide an unexpected opportunity for this, because the UK's trade relations will have to be renegotiated. As part of this, the UK should refuse to accept anything on the lines of the proposed TTIP trade deal, and look instead to a more localised economic future whose survival is not subject to the whims of international finance.

7. Planetary environmental governance. It's time for global governance for planetary boundaries, tackling global environmental issues that know no frontiers, issues such as dangerous climate change and biodiversity loss, through stronger global arrangements, and with the Bretton Woods economic institutions (World Bank, IMF, WTO) integrated into UN system rather than operating separately outside - and frequently undermining - it.

8. Raising standards on environment and social protection. Whilst new negotiations with the EU are taking place, Parliament should retain EU environmental & social protections in UK law. Crucial examples here are the Precautionary Principle and the Habitats Directive.

Moreover, it is also crucial that we don't make the mistake of keeping as part of UK law without modifying flawed EU directives. Brexit provides a potential opportunity to correct serious errors, such as the madly easy ride that the EU has given to agrofuels ('biofuels'). The EU Renewable Energy directive should be improved to rectify this error: this is something concrete and positive to lobby for.

9. Brexit does not give the Right a mandate! The referendum only resolves one issue: We must resist at every turn the assumption being made in some quarters that The Right and anti-green forces now have any sort of general mandate.

10. Media reform. Systematic dis-information is inevitable whilst Sun and Daily Mail are the two best-selling papers and TV takes its agenda largely from them. The referendum campaign showed the British media at its worst, and showed how hateful rhetoric can flourish in such a dreadful environment.

One concrete way to provide the groundwork for a 'progressive pact' would be for Labour, LibDems, Greens, SNP and Plaid to sign up to strong proposals for media reform in this country, proposals that were similar to each other's.


These ten lessons, these ten action-points, together provide, we believe, a way for us to go onto the front foot now, rather than endlessly onto the defensive. A way of putting our collective best foot forward ...

 


 

Victor Anderson is a former Green Party member of the London Assembly and member of the Green House think-tank core group.

Rupert Read is a former Norwich Green Party Councillor, and stood for the Green Party in Cambridge in 2015. He chairs Green House.

 

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