Today I'm announcing the Green Party's Brexit policy. We need another referendum

Labour want to talk about the Government’s failure on the economy and ignore Brexit, probably because they wrote the Tories a blank cheque for a hard Brexit – indeed they gave them a lift to the bank and helped them cash it in

Caroline Lucas
Tuesday 02 May 2017 14:11
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The Green Party are offering a referendum on the final Brexit deal
The Green Party are offering a referendum on the final Brexit deal

Today the Green Party announce our new pledge on Brexit – and our intention to put democracy at the core of the debate about Britain’s place in Europe. Though my party fought hard for Britain to stay in the EU, and I voted against unconditional triggering of Article 50, we accept the referendum was an instruction to the Government to begin Brexit negotiations.

We don’t, however, believe the decision should be irreversible. The referendum was the start, not the end, of the democratic process, and it is right people should have a say on the final deal in a ratification referendum – with the option to remain in the EU if they choose.

At the heart of the Conservative’s Brexit plan is an obsession with ending free movement – and by dancing to Ukip’s tune on the issue the Tories are risking both economic and constitutional chaos. Not only will ending free movement be economically damaging in itself, adding £16bn to borrowing according to the OBR, but the collateral damage will be lost membership of the single market. For companies small and large this could mean new tariffs and regulations – and the ability to do businesses with our nearest neighbours is predicted to suffer. Just yesterday the European Council made clear the “sector by sector” approach to the single market simply isn’t going to happen.

Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to remain, yet risk being pulled out against their will and suffering from a Tory plan to morph a narrow vote to leave into the most extreme of Brexits. The Tories have the gall to predict a “coalition of chaos” if they lose this election – yet their plans for our future relationship with Europe risk calamity.

It’s unquestionably true that whoever wins on 8 June has a mandate to negotiate Brexit on Britain’s behalf. With both the Tories and Labour saying they’ll end free movement and thus kick us out of single market membership, it looks likely the final package they present to Parliament will be a big departure from the open relationship we currently have. Both parties are promising “close” relationships with Europe – hoping to pick and choose the bits they see as the most valuable to Britain – but the European Parliament has ruled out this “a la carte” approach.

Much of what was offered on 23 June is now off the table. There will be no £350m a week for the NHS. We’re not going to have a relationship with the single market that is as beneficial as our current membership and even Government ministers admit we’ll continue to need migration for our economy. Just as voters have a right to reverse decisions made at previous general elections, they should be able to assess what Brexit will mean in practice and make up their minds accordingly.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd says she doesn't know if reports of Brexit negotiations are true

That’s why today we’re making clear our desire for a ratification referendum on the final deal, which includes an option for Britain to remain in the EU. Almost everyone has accepted Parliament should vote on the final deal, so why not make it truly democratic by opening it up to the people, with the option of staying in the EU? Indeed, if the other parties are confident they would negotiate gold-plated deals for Britain what have they got to be afraid of? If you like the Government’s deal to leave for Brexit, you can vote for it. But if you don’t, you can vote to stay. That’s democracy.

The politics of this general election are increasingly clear. The Conservatives want to talk about Brexit, and sweep up the nation’s leave voters. Labour want to talk about the Government’s failure on the economy and ignore Brexit, probably because they wrote the Tories a blank cheque for a hard Brexit – indeed they gave them a lift to the bank and helped them cash it in. The Lib Dems are talking about Europe, but not much else.

The Green Party is unique in our offer on 8 June. On the one hand we are passionately pro-European democrats who offer people a final chance to stay in the EU if they should wish, but on the other we have bold economic policies aimed at rejuvenating our resource-starved public sector and redistribute wealth. We’re not asking people to choose between opposing an extreme Brexit or an economic alternative, because we offer both.

Don’t believe those who tell you there are only two choices at this election – take a look at the candidates in your constituency and make a choose who you think best represents your views. Today the Green Party has pledged to give people more of a say, not less. We are also making clear whatever happens in this election Green MPs will fight for continued freedom of movement within Europe, and the protection of our environmental and social rights. If that’s the kind of politics that appeals to you, please join us in this fight.

Caroline Lucas is the co-leader of the Green Party

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