This week I joined thousands of marchers, striking pupils and students in Edinburgh as part of the global youth climate crisis strikes. The comparison between the millions of protestors worldwide this week with Greta Thunberg’s solo strike this time last year is remarkable.
The climate crisis has the prospect of causing mass devastation if no action is taken. As a result, we must reverse our impact on the planet by shifting to a far more sustainable system and pattern of development. However, during the march in Edinburgh, and in photos that I saw of other protests across the UK, I was perplexed by the signs and placards that claimed that it was time to move on from Brexit and focus on the environment.
I do recognise that a disproportionate amount of government time, effort and particularly money has been wasted on Brexit over the past three years. However, I cannot stand by the argument that Brexit must just be forgotten. There is some ambiguity in the claims and placards made by climate strikers. However, the idea that Brexit should just be ‘moved on from’ does not sit well with me.
The Government also wants to move on from Brexit as quickly as possible. They are adamant that we will leave the EU on the 31st of October. As there is not a negotiated deal that has the potential to be accepted by a majority in the House of Commons, the only way that the 31st of October deadline could be met would be through leaving the EU without a deal.
I must add that a no-deal Brexit will not lead to ‘moving on’ from this issue. It would instead lead to years of negotiations as the EU is our closest trading partner and a no-deal Brexit would not lay down any procedure. This would mean that negotiations would need to continue for several more years. Any claims that a no-deal Brexit offers us a ‘clean break’ from Europe are false; a clean break does not and cannot exist.
Additionally, if we were to leave the EU with no-deal then environmental standards would be lowered, meaning that the climate crisis would only worsen. In a letter that the Prime Minister wrote to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, Mr Johnson said that environmental (as well as labour and product) standards “will potentially diverge from those of the EU”. The lowering of environmental standards is designed to try and maintain business interests and investments in the UK. This will contribute further to the climate crisis. To suggest that we should just forget about Brexit in order to try and solve the climate crisis is hugely naïve as the two issues go hand in hand.
Further, if activists want to try and solve the issue of the climate crisis then they should call for remaining in the EU. The EU can be a huge part of the solution to the climate crisis. As a supranational body, the EU can play a part in making big policy shifts that we need in order to solve the climate crisis.
Remaining in the EU is fundamental to mitigate the problems that the climate crisis brings. Global cooperation is key, and the EU is indispensable in this. We must act quickly in order to stop the climate crisis, and remaining in the EU is a crucial part of this.