EU is more democratic than UK parliament, says Caroline Lucas

Exclusive: Co-leader of the Green Party says the European Union allows for more contribution from elected representatives 

Monday 05 February 2018 19:58
Caroline Lucas on a second EU referendum, hard or soft Brexit and whether people really care about the environment

The European Union is more democratic than Westminster, Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green Party, has claimed.

The MP for Brighton Pavilion told The Independent that the processes in the EU allow for greater transparency and more contribution from elected representatives compared to that in the UK.

Ms Lucas, who served as the MEP for South East England, made the comments in response to claims that people voted for Brexit due to the lack of democracy in Brussels.

“Westminster is pretty undemocratic as well and we have just seen that in the last few weeks when we have been discussing the trade bill,” Ms Lucas told The Independent.

The bill, put forward by Liam Fox the Secretary for State for International Trade, outlines how Britain will do trade outside of the EU.

Critics have scrutinised the proposals as parliament would not get to vote on any future trade agreements, a significant contrast from the EU, where the European Parliament has the right to veto any trade deal.

“It is far less democratic than the process we have within the EU right now. Far less say for MPs, far less circulation of documents, far less input from democratically elected representatives,” Ms Lucas said.

The comments come as Ms May signalled she is prepared to fight Brussels over its demands on EU citizens' rights during the Brexit transition period.

Contrary to the demands set out by the EU Ms May said she is “clear” there should be a difference in the rights afforded to people who come to Britain after March 2019.

Protecting citizens' rights has been seen as the number one priority for the European Parliament and said Ms May's proposals "could lead to discrimination against EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU".

“The maintenance of EU Citizens’ rights during the transition is not negotiable. We will not accept that there are two sets of rights for EU citizens. For the transition to work, it must mean a continuation of the existing acquis [legislation, legal acts, and court decisions], with no exceptions,” Mr Verhofstadt said.

Ms Lucas had previously described Ms May's stance on EU citizens' rights as "cruel" and "immoral" and has called for protection of EU citizens in the UK.

She also praised The Independent for backing calls from MPs to introduce a “latte levy”: a 25p tax on every disposable coffee cup bought by consumers and said the plans should be implemented “very swiftly”.

In a recent report from the Commons committee, the Government was accused of “sitting on its hands” as more than 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups were thrown away every year.

“I think it should come in within the next couple of years. I sit on the Environmental Audit Committee and we did an inquiry into this and all of the evidence suggested there should no difficulty to moving to this very swiftly,” Ms Lucas said.

Money raised from the levy would be used to improve the UK’s recycling “binfrastructure” and look to change people’s habits. A recent study from Cardiff University found that the tax could result in up to 300 million less disposable cups being used.

The co-leader of the Green Party also criticised Theresa May’s 25 year environment plan, in which the government has pledged to eliminate all avoidable waste by 2050 and all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.

She said it was “easy” to set a target which is not in your time in office and “possibly not in your lifetime”.

“What we needed to see was far more ambitious dates. Iceland, the supermarket, has got rid of all the single use plastics from its good in six years,” Ms Lucas said. “Let’s make [the target] ten years or fifteen years that would be a substantial improvement,” she said.

Ms May’s plans have drawn criticism from environmental groups who criticised the lack of proposed legislation.

“We are not really clear what legislation there will be to implement this plan,” Ben Stafford, head of campaigns at WWF told The Independent.

“If you want to have a vision to not just protect the environment but improve it you need ambitious new laws to do that.”

In response to Ms Lucas’s claims about the trade bill, the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said all the powers of the bill were “necessary and proportionate”.

Mr Fox said: “Free trade generates prosperity, increases consumer choice and creates jobs. Our Trade Bill will allow us to operate as an independent trading nation for the first time in 40 years.

“It will enable us to transition existing EU trade arrangements, providing continuity and certainty for businesses, and establishes a ‘Trade Remedies Authority’ to deal with unfair trade practices and unforeseen surges of imports.

“All of its powers are necessary and proportionate. It is nonsense to claim this is a power grab as it only affects existing trade agreements we are already included in through the EU.”

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