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Why I Voted Brexit not Green

To me, the most important issue is climate change and environmental responsibility. Yet I voted Brexit rather than Green in the 2019 European election. Why? Are not Brexit and Green mutually exclusive? I do not believe so.

Reflecting on my decision has revealed several issues that have not been debated. Some might prove to be important indicators of how differently people will vote in UK referenda and elections. Many are to do with hidden mindset. Two questions: why did I not vote Green, why did I vote Brexit?

Why did I not vote Green Party?

I believe we need a change of mindset towards greater climate and environmental responsibility. Thankfully, Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg have brought this need into our national debate. I believe that depending on the EU robs us of the challenge to take responsibility.

I have been a member of Britain's Green Party almost continuously since 1979. I have become disappointed in the Green Party because, for many years, they have put first things other than environmental responsibility - many of which come from the left-leaning liberal individualistic agenda. (See Addendum 3 for an example of this.) As a result they have been much less effective than they should have been.

The argument the Greens give for remaining in the EU is that the EU has good regulations on climate change and environment. These are means and mechanisms, not a change of mindset. While legislative mechanisms are important, they should follow our thinking, not lead it. Legislation is the means, but the Green Party makes it an end in itself.

What did the Green Party put first on its election leaflets (at least the one that was delivered to me)? Not climate change but "Remain in the EU". Climate responsibility was second. Had climate change been given first place on their election leaflets, I would have voted Green; because they put it second, I voted Brexit.

Why did I vote Brexit Party?

I don't particularly like Nigel Farage nor some of his views, but I utterly dislike the horde mentality that demonizes him. It makes me disbelieve the claims made against him. It is not on personality grounds that I made my decision, but rather on what I think would more quickly bring the UK, and humanity as a whole, to take responsibility for climate change.

I also dislike the Remainers' strategy: Make such a mess as to confuse the people then ask them what they want; confused people opt for the status quo. Recognising that, I decided to vote against the Remainers.

But, are not some Brexiteers against environmental responsibility? Which is worse: outright opposition by a few or lip-service by the many? Lip-service about climate change by many who advocate Remain leads to complacency that ends up missing important targets, because other things get prioritized. At least with outright opposition, the issue is still clear.

I believe there is no fundamental disparity between Brexit and environmental responsibility. The British people are ahead of the politicians in environmental responsibility, and would stifle the opposition. Think: plastic carrier bags, plastics in general, concern for wildlife and biodiversity, and support for wind power.

The EU

The EU has indeed forged some regulations towards environmental and climate responsibility. There are three 'buts'. But 1: If Britain leaves the EU, the EU will not suddenly rescind those regulations, so these regulations are not a reason to stay. But 2: The EU's regulations have been half-hearted. But 3: Responsibility in the UK does not consist in relying on EU rules.

The EU has not put environmental responsibility first. It prioritizes factors like business, nationalism, travel, and economic growth.

Of global climate change emissions, one third is from transport, one third is from electricity generation, with the rest from the construction industry, agriculture and several other things. Behind all this is marketing that urges us to want and consume more than we need or is good for us. This traps us in lifestyles that bloat those damaging sectors.

I don't trust the EU to bring climate change emissions to zero. While the EU has done a little about de-carbonising electricity, it has done almost nothing about the other sectors, even supporting and subsiding them. With the rise of nationalist parties in these Euro elections, will it not give much more attention to curbing nationalism than to reducing climate change emissions?

I don't see the EU as the solution to environmental and climate irresponsibility. Though the Greens increased from 58 to 70 MEPs, will they really exert the influence so badly needed with only 10% of MEPs?

British People

There are two British traits that have been overlooked in this debate: responsibility and innovativeness.

I believe that the British people do care, at heart, about responsibility more than many peoples do. This includes environmental responsibility. Though some might shout otherwise, most British people (including some of the shouters) will be happy to knuckle down to curbing climate change emissions and environmental damage, by changing lifestyles for the sake of good - if our leaders take a bold stance in that direction.

British people have long been innovators. This shines especially when we face national challenges. We need the challenge to take responsibility for climate change. The EU gives leaders and politicians too much comfort and not enough challenge.

Have you noticed that the main business protagonist against no-deal Brexit has been the car industry? Why? It has grown with too-cheap fuel. Seeing the car industry is, effectively, responsible for nearly one third of global climate change emissions, it will decline anyway, and should do so. So, is it wise to prop it up by avoiding no-deal Brexit?

Business has proven time and again that whereas it might protest, it adapts very well to whatever regulatory framework it is given.

Conclusion

We need a change of mindset if we are to tackle climate change and environmental destruction. Changes of mindset can come either gradually or by knocks. William Wilberforce and his colleagues changed the mindset over slavery gradually - with 20 years of hard, selfless, single-minded effort. Yet even in 40 years, the Greens have failed to change our mindset about environmental and climate responsibility, because they are far from single-minded. Gradualism, has had its chance and has failed. So now we need a knock. Brexit will give us the necessary knock. Maybe even a no-deal Brexit?

Andrew Basden
Professor of Human Factors and Philosophy in Information Systems
30 May 2019


Addendum

On the day I put that up, a friend of mine coincidentally gave me a different, opposing view, which has some resonance with me. Honesty compels me to add it here. Like me, she has long been a committed evangelical Christian who ardently supports and wants environmental responsibility.

She believes that Brexit will lead to Britain kowtowing to Donald Trump and the American insistance that we accept American ways of doing agriculture. These destroy wildlife; my friend told me there is absolutely no wildlife in the agricultural areas like Kansas. To pollinate the almond trees in California hives of bees have to be driven in on the backs of trucks, given a time to pollinate, then driven to another one, thousands of miles. American industrial agriculture would make responsibly-sourced food impossible.

I agree with these fears. Since I believe in responsibility, such a thing is a disaster, not only a disaster, but a moral outrage against the Creator.

She fears that this is inevitable if Brexit happens. I do not yet know how to square my views expressed above with my agreement with her fears. It may be that she is too pessimistic about the resistance of the British people to this, and our sense of responsibility in place of American greed. However, I also know that some kinds of politicians would fail to resist American pressure on this and let it in. As William Hague recently remarked [In Rethinking Representation, BBC Radio 4, 11 am, 31st May 2019], the MPs sometimes vote in a way that goes against the wishes of their constituents at the time, thinking they know better than the populace (he cited abortion and gay marriage as instances of that). Though many MPs have shown remarkable honesty and courage in representing what their constituents wish, especially in the case of Brexit, too many put their own idols and ideologies above those they are supposed to represent.

So, assuming Brexit happens, we will need to be extremely vigilant and take very effective action against such a scenario. Maybe Extinction Rebellion has shown a way to do this?

Addendum 2

The day after I wrote the above Addendum, I heard the Labour Party MP, Andy McDonald, arguing why Brexit is a bad idea, especially if no-deal: It would harm the UK car industry, steel industry and chemicals industry. Those three industries were his main reasons for wanting to stay in the EU.

Are these not industries that contribute immensely to climate and environmental irresponsibility? Remember:

Andy McDonald wants to remain in the EU so that the industries that damage the environment and planet can be protected. He is by no means alone in that opinion.

That is why I believe we need a shock to get us thinking differently. We need these industries to be hit visibly, so that we are forced to rethink.

I do not want to argue against my friend's view. But as I added that in the interests of honesty, I do so with this.

Addendum 3

The morning after I wrote Addendum 2, on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, at 07<:50, Sharn Berry from the Green Party was interviewed. Apparently the Green Party was attacking the Liberals, and the interviewer wanted to know why, when both parties were strongly in favour of Remain. Surely the Green Party could attack the Liberals on their poor record on the environment?

Not at all! Sharn immediately focused on "austerity" and reduction of "local services". She proceeded at length on these two topics, such that I wondered when and indeed whether she would mention environmental and climate responsibility. She once mentioned "climate chaod" as an aside among other things, and then only in support of her main topics. It was not until the BBC interviewer asked about climate change that Sharn mentioned it, and even then she got it mixed up with air pollution.

That shows why I don't trust the Green Party to deliver effective action on climate and environmental responsibility, even if they did manage to get into power. Sharn Berry is by no means alone in the Green Party in focusing on anti-austerity and local services etc., with little real interest in environmental issues.

Indeed, one might wonder: do we in the affluent countries not need to face a bit of what we might feel as austerity, if we are to live responsible and healthy, rather than greedy and wasteful, lifestyles? Why, then, is the UK Green Party so anti-austerity? It doesn't make sense to me.

I still believe my friend's concern must be taken really seriously. How do we 'square the circle'? Maybe the only hope is the kind of spiritual revival that brings a widespread change of heart? I guess that that probably cannot come about by human effort or education; it probably requires God to act. That is why I am putting effort into developing theology: it is our deepest beliefs that most strongly and effectively motivate us, and there has not so far been a theology in which these issues are sufficiently central.


Created: 30 May 2019. Last updated: 5 June 2019 Addendum. 7 June 2019 Addendum 2. 8 June 2019 Addendum 3. 14 June 2019 correction to Addendum 1.