Speech: Brexit Will Be A Disaster For Our Environment

Brexit shows a blatant disregard for our green future...

By Office of Wera Hobhouse, Jan 15, 2019 2:01

Wera Hobhouse made her speech against Theresa May's deal at 00:40 AM in the chamber last night...

The full text is as follows (check against delivery):

"We have come a long way since June 2016.  The promised sunny uplands, the Brexit land of milk and honey, has given way to the frosty realities of January 2019. No more hiding away from the facts that any Brexit will leave us worse off and that the best any post Brexit government can do is damage limitation. 

If we go ahead with Brexit we will have to find new ways of stimulating the economy. No longer bound by EU laws, those who argue for slashing regulations will quickly gain the upper hand. The race to the bottom will soon begin.

Among the first regulations on the bonfire will be those that protect the environment.

The European Court of Justice- so hated by Brexit fanatics and our current government- has been a strong bulwark against deregulation and has been an outstanding protector of environmental laws and regulations. The recent environment bill brought in by this government does not include a watchdog with anything like the power of the ECJ. 

Climate action will lose out.

There will be an increased incentive to support fossil fuel companies for short-term economic gain. Green energy projects - which are becoming increasingly affordable and promise long-term economic gain but still require upfront investment- will be the first victims. When the economy is struggling after Brexit who is going to provide that investment?

Once more, Climate action will lose out.

A post Brexit government will be under huge pressure to quickly sign new trade deals. This will be a great opportunity for any country to take advantage of our weakened position. 

We will soon find ourselves negotiating with countries whose economic clout is greater than ours. Take America. A trade deal with America will most likely involve opening up our economy to fracking companies. Even if we tried to build environmental protections into such trade deals the reality is that commercial interests will be dominant.

The case of Lone Pine Resources vs the Canadian Government shows what awaits us when we enter into trade deals with more powerful nations. The government of Quebec put a moratorium on fracking in 2011. The fracking company Lone Pine Resources has sued for over one hundred million dollars of lost profits under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Outside the EU our power to protect ourselves against the interests of large global companies will be much diminished.

The European Union is an international heavyweight when it comes to striking trade deals. It has not struck a trade deal with America precisely because it refuses to give up its own standards in areas like environmental protections. Because of its power as the world’s largest and most successful trading block it has the economic clout to walk away from trade negotiations that are not in the EU’s interests. 

On our own we will not have anywhere near the same clout. Even if we tried to protect our environment our resolve would quickly collapse as the urgency to find new trading partners would force our hand. There will be no halting the race to the bottom. 

Once more climate action will lose out.

No form of Brexit will halt this race to the bottom. Not the Prime Minister’s blind Brexit deal which offers no legal guarantee against future deregulation. Nor a No-deal Brexit, and not even the softest-of-soft Norway-plus Brexit Deal, which some members are still holding out for.  

The good intentions to protect the environment, workers’ rights and very close ties to the EU, would not survive the harsh post-Brexit realities of a struggling economy and the urgency to find new trading partners to compensate for lost EU trade.

Brexit is a fundamentally right-wing project. It seeks to deregulate our economy and hand the reins to powerful vested interests. 

It is political fantasy to think we can go ahead with Brexit and somehow mitigate its worst effects. Now that we have seen the reality of the right-wing Brexit agenda the only option for all of us who are progressive is to oppose Brexit as a project. There is no point in tinkering with it.

For some progressive opposition members climate action isn’t so central to their progressive agenda. However, climate action has always been about social justice. In the 21st century the battle to save our planet is inseparable from the battle to limit the power of big business and build a better world for all.

I call on all progressives politicians in this house to see Brexit for the right-wing project that it is. It is the time to come off the fence. We can stop Brexit and the democratic path to it is a People’s Vote with the option to stay in the European Union."

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