With the start of the Green Party conference in Liverpool today, the authors of a new report exploring the idea of an 'alternative' Brexit suggest the upcoming negotiations could deliver a more Green economy with localism at its heart
Alternative Brexit? Could this be the change the Greens have been waiting for?
Victor Anderson & Rupert Read
31st March, 2017
Many eco-minded Brits are rightly worried about the prospect of a ‘hard Brexit'. But what if another ‘alternative' Brexit that delivered a Greener economy were possible? VICTOR ANDERSON and RUPERT READ of Green House have just delivered a new report on Brexit and trade from an ecological perspective. Here, they share their key findings with the Ecologist...
This of course is what many Greens, Transition activists and others have argued for over many years: a less globalised, more localised, economy, based on thriving local communities
The triggering of Article 50 earlier this week starts a new phase in the arguments about Brexit. The various negotiations that are now going to take place will in a big way determine what sort of country the UK becomes - and even whether it continues to exist at all.
Several different types of future are possible. The ones already on the political agenda are easy to outline:
(1) The UK does a deal with Trump's America to become effectively the 51st state - lowering environmental, labour, and corporate standards in order to get a deal done.
(2) The UK pursues the fantasy of ‘Empire 2.0' but finds that Australia, Canada, India, Nigeria and the rest have all found different places in world trade that don't require them to link back to Britain.
(3) The UK has a deal with the EU that creates a ‘soft Brexit' that divides the Tory Party and ends up not changing much except for costing money and cutting Britain out of influencing the decision-making.
(4) The UK gets no deal at all. The subsequent public revolt, and Parliament or a new referendum, ends up choosing not to go ahead with Brexit. Loss of face for Theresa May and cries of anger from the hard Right but sighs of relief from many other people.
(5) England and Wales go ahead with Brexit but Scotland breaks away and Northern Ireland joins up with the Irish Republic, staying in the EU.
Those are the options being talked about now. But we have written a new report Brexit Trade published by Molly Scott Cato, a Green Member of the European Parliament, that puts forward a different alternative: an ‘alternative Brexit'.
We have assumed in our report that Brexit does go ahead and asked how it could be made a success if we face up to the reality that any trade deals done by the UK with larger economic blocs are bound to be one-sided once we are no longer negotiating as part of the EU. In these circumstances, the rational response is to see if the UK's dependence on international trade can be reduced.
This in turn would depend on developing a UK economy with greater national self-reliance, deliberately building up economic sectors which can make substitutes for goods that would otherwise be imported.
This of course is what many Greens, Transition activists and others have argued for over many years: a less globalised, more localised, economy, based on thriving local communities; one that would reduce the power of unaccountable multinational corporations and make "taking back control" of the economy realistically possible.
Like most things, this would be a matter of balance. Of course we don't advocate eliminating imports altogether. But it would involve abandoning the dogma that maximising international trade is necessarily a good thing, and recognising that globalisation needs to be tamed - in some ways democratised and in some ways reversed.
Our report sets this out, including the implications for the environment and migration, and the wider context of the arguments about neoliberalism and populism. We want to add a new flavour, a new colour, to the Brexit debate. Why not read our report for yourself: Brexit Trade
Victor is a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), and used to be a Green member of the London Assembly. Rupert chairs the Green House think-tank and was Green Party candidate for Cambridge at the 2015 general election.
Green House think-tank
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