by James Billot
Wednesday, 27
November 2019
Idea
15:25

Did the Green Party miss a trick with Brexit?

by James Billot
The Shire

With less than three weeks to go until the General Election, polling for the Green Party doesn’t look pretty. The latest YouGov has them down at 2%, which is roughly where they were at the last election. Any hope that it would follow in the footsteps of its sister party in Germany, the second most popular party, is long gone.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but did the Greens miss a trick by not backing Brexit in the 2016 referendum?

Instead of resorting to limp arguments about ‘remain and reform’ in the EU — a slogan that even the most ardent Remainers don’t really believe in — the Greens could have presented a bold, exciting vision of a Green Brexit and drawn on support from across the political spectrum.

With party loyalty at its lowest point in decades, the Greens might have united liberals and small c conservatives under the banner of environmentalism — the Extinction Rebellion Left and the anti-corporatist Right. Representing global trade and the dogma of economic growth, the EU could have provided the perfect foil for drawing these two factions together.

Historically, Greens and Nigel Farage’s UKIP joined in opposition to free trade deals like TTIP, which they see as both an environmental scourge and a sell-out to corporations. Similarly, George Monbiot calls the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy ‘among the most powerful drivers of environmental destruction’ — and as he said on our podcast this week, it’s unreformable.

If the Greens were savvy enough, this dormant coalition of Leavers and Greens could have been awakened well before 2016. One glance at the Green 2015 party manifesto shows as much, promising to ‘prioritise local self-reliance rather than the EU’s unsustainable economics of free trade and growth’.

For whatever reason, this streak of conservatism went undeveloped. Now, it is a pity that the Green Party finds itself all but forgotten as parties adopt green policies around them. It might sound fanciful, but if the Greens had opted for a Leave Alliance with the Tories instead of their current pact with the Lib Dems and Plaid, they would have been in a stronger position to lobby for a greener Brexit.

Instead, they will have to watch the most pivotal moment in our post-war history unfold from the sidelines, consigned once again to winning a couple of seats on the backbenches.

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