SIAN BERRY: We need real green change, not Boris and Brexit

Anti-Brexit campaigners in the Green Party calling for a People's Vote. Photograph: Twitter.

Anti-Brexit campaigners in the Green Party calling for a People's Vote. Photograph: Twitter. - Credit: Archant

Green Party co-leader SIAN BERRY on why her party is marching for change in London.

Earlier this month, Greens did something which made Brexiteers' blood boil. We took our seats in the European Parliament. Despite the best efforts of hard right-wingers to drive us over the cliff edge of no-deal, we are still in Europe. Not only that, but the British people have sent over twice as many Green MEPs to sit alongside hundreds of MEPs committed to keeping Britain in the EU. It has been in short supply over the last few years, but on that day I felt the most powerful and productive feeling of all: real hope.

In the coming days, however, that cliff edge will start hurtling towards us faster than ever before. Boris Johnson's galumphing progress towards Number 10 shows no sign of slowing down, and there's no reason to believe he'll be any less destructive once he's in office. Johnson has made it very clear that he's prepared to come out of Europe without a deal; do or die. He's even prepared to suspend Parliament in order to make sure it happens. This is not taking back control. This is relinquishing control, and plunging the country into chaos.

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We are in enough of a mess already, especially since the economics of Cameron's government decimated public services, pushed people into poverty, and sent homelessness through the roof. When people voted for a radical change from the business-as-usual of neoliberalism and austerity, they were right to do so. But Brexit is not the answer.

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We do need real change. We don't need anything that's on offer from the Brexit Party MEPs who turned up to the European Parliament to pull a stupid stunt, collected their money, and went to the pub. And the absolute last thing we need is Boris Johnson taking the wheel. He'll crash us into no-deal for his own vanity, and won't lift a finger to sort out the wreckage, instead promising domestic policies such as slashing tax for the richest in society, that will only make the inequality that led to Brexit worse. If you voted Leave in the reasonable hope of a fairer more prosperous future, you are going to be disappointed.

That's why, this weekend, Greens are coming together once more on the streets to join the March for Change, alongside the broader Another Europe is Possible contingent. Together, we are proud to say yes to Europe, but also shout loudly that we need a serious reprogramming of our social and economic order here in Britain. For some Remain campaigners, the end goal seems to be getting back to the business-as-usual of slowly rising house prices and steeply rising carbon emissions. But Greens completely reject this. Leave voters were right: something is very badly wrong. But it's not Europe.

It's decades of neoliberal rule which has torn our communities in two and turned Britain into one of the most unequal countries across the continent. We need bold new ideas to meet the challenges of the century ahead, not to repeat the mistakes of the century behind us. Happily, these bold ideas are at hand. To give just one example, our MEPs in Brussels are now fighting for a cross-Europe Green New Deal to take real action on the climate crisis, and we have been fighting for these policies here in Britain for more than a decade already.

A Green New Deal would unlock billions of pounds of investment in the rapid transition to a low-carbon economy, giving a good, green job to everyone who wants one. The effect would be two-fold: we'd limit disastrous climate change, while redressing the injustice and inequality which has rotted our communities from the core. Social justice must go hand in hand with environmental justice, especially when we make the case for Europe. We want to be tough on Brexit. But it's more important to be tough on the causes of Brexit.

We can't achieve this just by appealing to the Conservatives in government and especially not if Boris Johnson takes over. One of Theresa May's last acts was to announce a new net-zero target with great fanfare, only to be trashed by her own climate experts a few days later for failing to be on course for even the old targets.

Johnson may be about to take the top job in the Conservative Party, but he is set to oversee only the final stages of its own demise. Together, we must imagine something better, and transform this country for good.

- Sian Berry is the co-leader of The Green Party.

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