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Caroline Lucas: the Eurosceptic who became an arch-Remainer

Caroline Lucas speaks during an anti-Brexit protest in 2019. Credit: Getty

June 8, 2023 - 10:45am

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, has this morning announced her intention to stand down from Parliament at the next election. In her resignation letter, Lucas cited several of what she believed to be her achievements, including securing a debate on drug law reform and a Natural History GCSE.

In the last few years, Lucas was known as one of the staunchest opponents of Brexit. She was a leading figure in the “People’s Vote” campaign, an effort to avoid implementing the Leave vote of the 2016 referendum.

Yet, earlier in her political career, Lucas had been doubtful about British membership in the EU. Her stance should not come as a surprise given that the British Left was historically Eurosceptic. The Greens, too, had previously opposed Britain’s membership of the EU. Their 1987 manifesto stated opposition to British membership of the Common Market and the Treaty of Rome. In 2016, the Green peer Jenny Jones was one of the “Green Leaves” to have campaigned for Brexit. Before entering the UK Parliament, Lucas was part of that same Eurosceptic tradition.

In 1999, the Greens won their first two seats in the European Parliament. They had stood on an anti-euro platform and positioned themselves as an alternative for Left-of-centre voters who had grown disillusioned with Labour’s fulsome embrace of the EU that decade. According to one contemporary newspaper, “The Greens acknowledge that in an election in which the Euro-sceptics polled well, this must have contributed to their success.”

One of those MEPs was Caroline Lucas. She had established her Eurosceptic bona fides by opposing the Maastricht Treaty and the European Single Market. She reflected:

The goal of the Maastricht Treaty is unacceptable because it aims to maximise growth via a Single Market that creates job insecurity and the destruction of local communities. This has been made worse by the struggle to reach the EMU’s “convergence criteria” as well as by an undemocratic, centralised political process.
- Caroline Lucas

These words come from Lucas’s contribution to a 1999 pamphlet entitled Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Euro But Were Afraid to Ask a Tory, organised by a group led by the Eurosceptic Labour MP Frank Field.

Lucas’s article, “The Green Case Against the Euro”, was prescient. In predicting that a “single currency will increase regional disparities, add to unemployment across Europe, and undermine local economies,” Lucas warned that the ECB was an undemocratic institution that would have an outsize influence on member states.

Her concerns stretched beyond monetary union. She voiced fears over the EU’s tendency to centralise and erode national barriers, warning that “the rush to a Single Market […] is corroding the social, employment, and environmental structure of our continent.” She even noted how EU freedom of movement would have a depressionary effect on wages.

In the 2000s, as an MEP, Lucas campaigned against the treaties, such as the Treaty of Nice, which accelerated these trends of European integration. She stood alongside Tony Benn and other Left-wing critics, raising concerns about the EU’s undemocratic and pro-capitalist structures. “The idea that this process can possibly meet the needs of over 350 million Europeans is fundamentally flawed. The needs of each region in Europe differ too greatly and their economies, environment, cultures and history are far too diverse,” Lucas proclaimed.

By the time she was elected an MP in 2010, she had changed her tune. In 2016 and thereafter, Lucas campaigned to keep Britain permanently tied to these structures about which she had so stridently warned. 

Her conversion was no doubt influenced by her strongly pro-EU constituency, but there was a deeper reason, too. In recent years, many erstwhile Left-wing critics of the EU have come to see the EU’s insulation from national democratic electorates as a feature, not a flaw. If social justice could not be achieved through national elections, then the EU single market’s regulatory framework might provide a useful alternative.

For Lucas, her previous fears about the effect of freedom of movement on the wages of workers and the EU’s democratic structures subsided. These were a price worth paying for a capitalist Europe, but with some concessions to environmentalism.


Richard Johnson is a Lecturer in US Politics and Policy at Queen Mary University of London.

richardmarcj

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Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
11 months ago

As a reformed Green Party supporter, I’m glad to see the back of her. My desperate letters to her during the “Covid” tyranny, begging her to support human rights and engage with the truth were answered with copy-and-paste drivel about the “dangers of this terrible disease” and how “antivaxxers” were a mortal threat to society. I sent her data, evidence, basic logic, and she didn’t engage with any of it because she’d been captured by the propaganda, fully signed up to the Agenda 2030 cult. She’s a Eugenicist. A Malthusian. She is a weak, pathetic moral coward.. She wasn’t an MP she was “automated information” (the only thing “AI” stands for). She lost her mind. I’m so relieved she’s going. She’s a danger to children and an utter disgrace.

Rochelle Wilson
Rochelle Wilson
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Well done Amy.
Same here in New Zealand. All the Parties in Parliament sang from the same anti-human rights song sheet on the pretext of a Public Health Emergency.
Here the “Covid Emergency” is “Over” although there are 11.000 to 14,000 “cases” announced each week. All the controls [I call Fascist] are in place for the next pandemic announced from the unelected BMGF etc funded WHO.
Your letter would not have been printed here except on de-platformed new platform sites.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
11 months ago

I feel particularly heart-broken about New Zealand. It was my “escape plan” when everything went to shit in the UK. Such a beautiful country with what I thought was a peaceful and respectful multicultural society. My Kiwi friends who were once so on board with good health and critical thinking literally lost their minds and jabbed all their kids. The fascists got to them on the “you won’t be able to travel” propaganda. That’s heavy for people in New Zealand as you’re so far from so many places. Every Kiwi I know just loves to travel. I feel like countries without a long history of fighting oppression and tyranny (Canada, NZ, Australia) were most easily fooled. At least in places like Eastern Europe, India and South Africa people recognised it for what it was. Not everyone, but significant numbers. They dealt with it in their own way. I heard many doctors in South Africa would squirt the contents of the vial onto the floor and then give people their “certificate” because of the mandates to take the jab for your job. Anyway, we can’t slow down, this was only the beginning. It’s on ongoing upwards battle to expose all the lies! Good on you for holding down the fort of truth in NZ!

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
11 months ago

I feel particularly heart-broken about New Zealand. It was my “escape plan” when everything went to shit in the UK. Such a beautiful country with what I thought was a peaceful and respectful multicultural society. My Kiwi friends who were once so on board with good health and critical thinking literally lost their minds and jabbed all their kids. The fascists got to them on the “you won’t be able to travel” propaganda. That’s heavy for people in New Zealand as you’re so far from so many places. Every Kiwi I know just loves to travel. I feel like countries without a long history of fighting oppression and tyranny (Canada, NZ, Australia) were most easily fooled. At least in places like Eastern Europe, India and South Africa people recognised it for what it was. Not everyone, but significant numbers. They dealt with it in their own way. I heard many doctors in South Africa would squirt the contents of the vial onto the floor and then give people their “certificate” because of the mandates to take the jab for your job. Anyway, we can’t slow down, this was only the beginning. It’s on ongoing upwards battle to expose all the lies! Good on you for holding down the fort of truth in NZ!

Rochelle Wilson
Rochelle Wilson
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Well done Amy.
Same here in New Zealand. All the Parties in Parliament sang from the same anti-human rights song sheet on the pretext of a Public Health Emergency.
Here the “Covid Emergency” is “Over” although there are 11.000 to 14,000 “cases” announced each week. All the controls [I call Fascist] are in place for the next pandemic announced from the unelected BMGF etc funded WHO.
Your letter would not have been printed here except on de-platformed new platform sites.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
11 months ago

As a reformed Green Party supporter, I’m glad to see the back of her. My desperate letters to her during the “Covid” tyranny, begging her to support human rights and engage with the truth were answered with copy-and-paste drivel about the “dangers of this terrible disease” and how “antivaxxers” were a mortal threat to society. I sent her data, evidence, basic logic, and she didn’t engage with any of it because she’d been captured by the propaganda, fully signed up to the Agenda 2030 cult. She’s a Eugenicist. A Malthusian. She is a weak, pathetic moral coward.. She wasn’t an MP she was “automated information” (the only thing “AI” stands for). She lost her mind. I’m so relieved she’s going. She’s a danger to children and an utter disgrace.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
11 months ago

Her conversion was no doubt influenced by her strongly pro-EU constituency, but there was a deeper reason, too. In recent years, many erstwhile Left-wing critics of the EU have come to see the EU’s insulation from national democratic electorates as a feature, not a flaw. If social justice could not be achieved through national elections, then the EU single market’s regulatory framework might provide a useful alternative.

Exactly so. The electorate in the UK don’t behave as they should do, so we need to govern the country according to the views of an unelected bureaucratic elite who will over-rule said electorate. As such, this unpleasant would-be dictator needs to be booed off the public stage and kept as far away from power as possible.
There is also the fact that people become more conservative as they get older. She started off being rightly suspicious of unelected officials, a bit like Tony Benn and even Corbyn. But whereas Benn had the strength of character to retain that aspect of his radicalism until death, and Corbyn was ever cagey about how he had voted in the referendum, she caved in when she got comfortable and reform looked like a difficult task. “Remainer” is now a bit of a misnomer, of course, but there is nothing more conservative than a middle-class comfortable Europhile who burbles on about the EU having prevented wars (it didn’t) and provided decent coffee and pasta (again, no). Her angle was mainly about the environment, of course, but in any case, bloody good riddance.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

You saved me the need of commenting

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

First the defeated directionless Left betray the working classes and sign up like lost souls to the shiny new EU, as this article well describes. Then Blair from 97 set about the systematic demolition of the powers of national parliament and the nation state to make us a Brussel compliant EU Province. The governance weapon of this revolutionary New Order? NMIs. Non majoritarian Institutions: the creation of a vast leftist army of unelected permanent Quangocrats with extensive powers once held by ministers – from Bank of England to NHS and more. Welcome to the Technocracy or Blob. Brexit has come, driven by a defiant people, not a debased parliament. The reason the so called Tories are so utterly impotent is that this EU cloned Blob rules still, absoutely. Its authority is embedded in State law and practice, its egalitarian and identitarian ideology propagandized by the Haw Haw Lock You Down BBC. In other words, the Progressive UK Blairite State has 100% imbibed and inherited the Elitist top down ‘Rule By Your Betters’ philosophy of the EU which first drew the ruderless Left to it back in the 90s. So the democratic nightmare carries on. The Remainiac Blob does its twisted take on ‘social justice’. But it does not do elections, nor justice for the people.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

You saved me the need of commenting

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

First the defeated directionless Left betray the working classes and sign up like lost souls to the shiny new EU, as this article well describes. Then Blair from 97 set about the systematic demolition of the powers of national parliament and the nation state to make us a Brussel compliant EU Province. The governance weapon of this revolutionary New Order? NMIs. Non majoritarian Institutions: the creation of a vast leftist army of unelected permanent Quangocrats with extensive powers once held by ministers – from Bank of England to NHS and more. Welcome to the Technocracy or Blob. Brexit has come, driven by a defiant people, not a debased parliament. The reason the so called Tories are so utterly impotent is that this EU cloned Blob rules still, absoutely. Its authority is embedded in State law and practice, its egalitarian and identitarian ideology propagandized by the Haw Haw Lock You Down BBC. In other words, the Progressive UK Blairite State has 100% imbibed and inherited the Elitist top down ‘Rule By Your Betters’ philosophy of the EU which first drew the ruderless Left to it back in the 90s. So the democratic nightmare carries on. The Remainiac Blob does its twisted take on ‘social justice’. But it does not do elections, nor justice for the people.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
11 months ago

Her conversion was no doubt influenced by her strongly pro-EU constituency, but there was a deeper reason, too. In recent years, many erstwhile Left-wing critics of the EU have come to see the EU’s insulation from national democratic electorates as a feature, not a flaw. If social justice could not be achieved through national elections, then the EU single market’s regulatory framework might provide a useful alternative.

Exactly so. The electorate in the UK don’t behave as they should do, so we need to govern the country according to the views of an unelected bureaucratic elite who will over-rule said electorate. As such, this unpleasant would-be dictator needs to be booed off the public stage and kept as far away from power as possible.
There is also the fact that people become more conservative as they get older. She started off being rightly suspicious of unelected officials, a bit like Tony Benn and even Corbyn. But whereas Benn had the strength of character to retain that aspect of his radicalism until death, and Corbyn was ever cagey about how he had voted in the referendum, she caved in when she got comfortable and reform looked like a difficult task. “Remainer” is now a bit of a misnomer, of course, but there is nothing more conservative than a middle-class comfortable Europhile who burbles on about the EU having prevented wars (it didn’t) and provided decent coffee and pasta (again, no). Her angle was mainly about the environment, of course, but in any case, bloody good riddance.

Robbie K
Robbie K
11 months ago

I never understood Lucas – a supporter of climate change policy obviously, but rejects nuclear power. She was however always willing to compromise on her principles in other areas, doing secret deals with Labour and undermining democracy both at the ballot box and the Brexit referendum. Hopefully she can find something useful to do without being annoying, but I doubt it.

Robbie K
Robbie K
11 months ago

I never understood Lucas – a supporter of climate change policy obviously, but rejects nuclear power. She was however always willing to compromise on her principles in other areas, doing secret deals with Labour and undermining democracy both at the ballot box and the Brexit referendum. Hopefully she can find something useful to do without being annoying, but I doubt it.

N Satori
N Satori
11 months ago

I doubt if we’ve seen the last of Lucas. She’ll soon be on her way to the House of Lords – lately the home of ageing Left-liberal “firebrands’ (ie. annoying issue-driven windbags).

N Satori
N Satori
11 months ago

I doubt if we’ve seen the last of Lucas. She’ll soon be on her way to the House of Lords – lately the home of ageing Left-liberal “firebrands’ (ie. annoying issue-driven windbags).

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
11 months ago

So, when the left was pro-Leave, she was pro-Leave, and when they flipped to Remain, she flipped with them?
Only two words can describe these selfless acts of principle: stunning and brave!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
11 months ago

So, when the left was pro-Leave, she was pro-Leave, and when they flipped to Remain, she flipped with them?
Only two words can describe these selfless acts of principle: stunning and brave!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
11 months ago

tedious, vapid, eco sandaloid zealot of the most disagreeable kind.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
11 months ago

tedious, vapid, eco sandaloid zealot of the most disagreeable kind.

R Wright
R Wright
11 months ago

Good riddance to bad rubbish. This woman’s gerrymandering in Brighton should be a national scandal.

R Wright
R Wright
11 months ago

Good riddance to bad rubbish. This woman’s gerrymandering in Brighton should be a national scandal.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
11 months ago

This seems to be a feature of Green politicians. The Greens in Germany have gone from sandal wearing hippies to pillars of the Establishment!
I note they are now going through the same sort of scandals all the other parties have gone through.

Last edited 11 months ago by Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
11 months ago

This seems to be a feature of Green politicians. The Greens in Germany have gone from sandal wearing hippies to pillars of the Establishment!
I note they are now going through the same sort of scandals all the other parties have gone through.

Last edited 11 months ago by Roger Inkpen
j watson
j watson
11 months ago

Lucas’s journey from EU sceptic to supporter had its antecedents, but almost certainly many more recent converts given the hard lessons we’ve learnt.
But perhaps it also illuminates an immaturity. The EU has moved more in her policy direction and thus she’s less sceptical. She also appreciates the Green agenda cannot just be followed in the UK and amount to anything much. It needs international bodies to drive this. To have ever thought differently a bit ‘student politicky’.
Being a sceptic of Parliament until it begins to promulgate policies one supports was and is always immature. The point is a democratic body is there to be influenced and is not static. One can rail against policies a Parliament, or the EU, may at a point in time promulgate, but our elected representatives and our elected Govt are capable of changing what these institutions drive forward. Spitting the dummy out and stropping off, like any childhood lesson likely to prove painful.

j watson
j watson
11 months ago

Lucas’s journey from EU sceptic to supporter had its antecedents, but almost certainly many more recent converts given the hard lessons we’ve learnt.
But perhaps it also illuminates an immaturity. The EU has moved more in her policy direction and thus she’s less sceptical. She also appreciates the Green agenda cannot just be followed in the UK and amount to anything much. It needs international bodies to drive this. To have ever thought differently a bit ‘student politicky’.
Being a sceptic of Parliament until it begins to promulgate policies one supports was and is always immature. The point is a democratic body is there to be influenced and is not static. One can rail against policies a Parliament, or the EU, may at a point in time promulgate, but our elected representatives and our elected Govt are capable of changing what these institutions drive forward. Spitting the dummy out and stropping off, like any childhood lesson likely to prove painful.

Will K
Will K
11 months ago

There were plausible arguments that leaving or remaining in the EU would be better. I think facts now show that the economic benefits were definitely illusory. Other vaguer, mostly unmeasurable, benefits also have not yet been realised. I suspect that Brexit was a con-job, but am willing to be generous and just say it was mistaken. My generosity is because I feel the voters were as much to blame as their leaders.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  Will K

The most important benefit – ensuring that the laws that govern the UK population are made by UK politicians that can be sacked by the UK electorate – has been achieved.
The obsession with monetary loss/gain is one of the saddest elements of the most vocal Remain tendency.

Last edited 11 months ago by Ian Barton
Christian Moon
Christian Moon
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

And the next saddest is the obsession with global influence, with being at the table, punching above our weight, and so on. Happy to be Norway, me: it’s so much less cringe-making.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

And the next saddest is the obsession with global influence, with being at the table, punching above our weight, and so on. Happy to be Norway, me: it’s so much less cringe-making.

Peter B
Peter B
11 months ago
Reply to  Will K

Do you realise how pathetic it sounds when you have to blame the voters ?
The only voters that might be blamed are those who couldn’t be bothered to vote. Everyone else did their job.
What you never, ever hear is any disappointed remainer pointing out the responsibility of their own side for being unable to present a better case. “We was robbed” simply doesn’t cut it. But no. People like Craig Oliver and Will Straw were awarded honours (sic) for their work.

Last edited 11 months ago by Peter B
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  Peter B


 courtesy of Cameron the snake-oil salesman. A pompous talentless chancer that should be the target of Remainers blame.

Last edited 11 months ago by Ian Barton
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  Peter B


 courtesy of Cameron the snake-oil salesman. A pompous talentless chancer that should be the target of Remainers blame.

Last edited 11 months ago by Ian Barton
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  Will K

The most important benefit – ensuring that the laws that govern the UK population are made by UK politicians that can be sacked by the UK electorate – has been achieved.
The obsession with monetary loss/gain is one of the saddest elements of the most vocal Remain tendency.

Last edited 11 months ago by Ian Barton
Peter B
Peter B
11 months ago
Reply to  Will K

Do you realise how pathetic it sounds when you have to blame the voters ?
The only voters that might be blamed are those who couldn’t be bothered to vote. Everyone else did their job.
What you never, ever hear is any disappointed remainer pointing out the responsibility of their own side for being unable to present a better case. “We was robbed” simply doesn’t cut it. But no. People like Craig Oliver and Will Straw were awarded honours (sic) for their work.

Last edited 11 months ago by Peter B
Will K
Will K
11 months ago

There were plausible arguments that leaving or remaining in the EU would be better. I think facts now show that the economic benefits were definitely illusory. Other vaguer, mostly unmeasurable, benefits also have not yet been realised. I suspect that Brexit was a con-job, but am willing to be generous and just say it was mistaken. My generosity is because I feel the voters were as much to blame as their leaders.