As a newly-elected Green MEP, I'm excited to start working on our own version of the Green New Deal

Such a project, championed so successfully by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US, wouldn’t just build infrastructure such as low-carbon transport and industries, it would also create high quality, well-paid jobs in every corner of the EU and vastly reduce inequality

Alexandra Phillips
Monday 27 May 2019 15:25 BST
'It's not some kind of future threat' says Caroline Lucas as only handful of government MPs attend climate change debate

Last night a green wave swept across Europe. Almost 70 Green MEPs were elected, with huge surges of support in Germany, France, Ireland, and Finland. In the UK the Green Party won a record seven seats – more than doubling our best tally in a European election.

This election took place at a time when concern for the environment was at a historic high. After years of struggle from environmental groups, the last few months have seen a combination of school students on strike, David Attenborough’s shocking documentaries, Greta Thunberg’s activism and Extinction Rebellion’s protests – and all of a sudden the fate of our planet flew to the top of the news agenda. Those of us entering the European Parliament as new Green MEPs do so as part of a social movement sweeping the globe.

It’s with the backing of that social movement that I plan to use my position in the European Parliament to bring together a cross-party, cross-continent group of representatives to begin creating a Europe-wide Green New Deal. Such a project, championed so successfully by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US, wouldn’t just build infrastructure such as low-carbon transport and industries, it would also create high quality, well-paid jobs in every corner of the European Union and vastly reduce inequality. It would rapidly help us do what we must and drop our emissions in line with what the science tells us – and crucially, it would also allow Europe to begin to repay the climate debt it owes the world.

There’s no doubt that people are more likely to vote Green when environmental issues are making waves in the media. Indeed a look back at 1989, when the Green Party recorded their highest ever percentage of the vote (15% per cent in the European Election), shows the British public responding directly to the Chernobyl disaster in the ballot box. That vote didn’t win the Greens any seats at all – but this election is different, not only because we converted those votes into a record number of seats, but because we did so on the back of our best ever local elections results too.

Of course the European election results in the UK weren’t just about the environment – they were also clearly influenced by Brexit. It’s no coincidence that the two serious Remain parties did well on Thursday, and that people are recognising the clear leadership that Caroline Lucas MP has put forward in her longstanding campaign for a People’s Vote.

The clear public backing for parties supporting a People’s Vote is only the start of a process of stopping Brexit though. If we’re serious about healing the divisions in our country we need to engage in a battle, not just against Brexit itself, but against its causes too. For a start that means making a stand for migration, not begrudgingly accepting that “freedom of movement will end” but being straight with people about our support for Britain being an open country where people can come to make a home.

We won’t beat Farage’s demagogues dressed as democrats by parroting lines about “justified concerns” about migration – we’ll only beat them if we take a serious stand against their rhetoric.

We also can’t pretend that a People’s Vote would, in itself, alleviate the economic conditions which led to Brexit. A “remain and transform” plan, which must include an end to austerity and a commitment to public ownership, is the only one which can begin to address the deep economic hardship which played a major part in the Brexit vote.

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This week I will go to Brussels to meet with colleagues from across the continent to start work on an EU-wide Green New Deal, and to make a stand against the far right. For me there’s no other way to solve the multiple crises we face. The European Union will succeed if those working within it are bold enough to transform it to work better for us, and to revitalise its institutions to be servants of the people of our continent rather the corporations, who saunter through the halls of power, unaccountable to all.

Alexandra Phillips is the Green MEP for South East England

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