1st July 2016
Since the EU referendum Jean has been contacted by Londoners concerned about the outcome. She has written this response to them.
I voted for the UK to remain part of the European Union and feel a profound sense of disappointment at the result of the referendum.
The result revealed a country extremely divided. Whilst over 17 million people voted to leave the EU, over 16 million voted to stay. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland all voted to remain.
Many people, especially in these areas, are quite understandably frustrated and angry at the result. Misinformation, untruths and undeliverable promises were regular features of the Leave campaign. For its part, the Remain campaign was prone to overstating its negative case, and this fed public scepticism and accusations of ‘project fear’ which proved to be counterproductive. However, the Leave campaign’s deplorable use of fearmongering around immigration and asylum-seekers should be universally condemned. It has stoked and given license to the politics of hate, which we are now seeing through increases in racist attacks and other hate crimes.
The latest post-referendum political developments are showing that, despite numerous promises during the campaign, the Leave campaigners have no plan for negotiating or enacting Brexit.
The only legal way for a Member State to leave the EU is for that state to notify the European Council under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. That gives a two-year period for negotiating exit terms before membership formally ends. The decision on when to trigger Article 50 will now be made by the incoming UK Prime Minister, who will not be in position until September at the earliest. Constitutional experts have argued that Article 50 can only be triggered with the approval of Parliament, and a large majority of Westminster MPs are opposed to the UK leaving the EU. This has led some to suggest that Article 50 may never be triggered, or that the triggering could be significantly delayed. In the event that a vote is required, MPs could block Article 50, perhaps with MPs from Remain-voting constituencies voting accordingly. In any case, your MP will have an important role to play and you should raise the issue with them if you haven’t done so already. Green MP Caroline Lucas has just launched an Early Day Motion on Article 50, which you can ask your MP to sign.
However, while the referendum itself has no legal force, most of the 17 million people who voted for the UK to leave the EU will be expecting that to happen (even if some have since changed their minds). At the June EU Summit, the Prime Minister communicated the results of the referendum to the other 27 EU Member States, who now understand it to be a matter of when, not if, Article 50 gets triggered. Those 27 countries understandably want clear and decisive action, so the issue does not drag on in a way that is damaging to their countries or to the EU as a whole.
The current turmoil in British politics risks distracting us from the issues that are so important to all of our futures, and which are thrown into question by the referendum result. That is why I will be focusing on making strong and clear calls over the days and weeks to come for any new government to guarantee that vital protections, such as those on the environment and workers’ rights, will be maintained by the UK Government, regardless of the UK’s EU membership. These are protections which the Green Party and others have fought long and hard for.
I will also be sending out a loud and clear message that the rise in the number of hate-related incidents in recent days is completely unacceptable. Now more than ever we must stand together against all forms of intolerance, discrimination and hatred, both here and abroad – especially given the positive reaction to the referendum outcome from parties such as France’s Front National.
The Green Party has tried throughout to lead a clear and positive campaign on how our membership of the EU has made us greener, stronger and safer. We are now calling for everyone to work for community cohesion in these frightening, uncertain times. Regardless of how we voted on 23 June we must all stand together to defeat racism and all forms of intolerance.
Following the referendum result the Green Party has called for an early general election.
The Green Party continues to stand on a platform that is pro-European, and for the UK to work closely and collaboratively with our European neighbours in the protection of our rights, freedoms and the environment, and in order to meet the shared global challenges we all face.
We continue to believe that this is best served by the UK being in the EU. If that proves politically impossible, we will work for the UK to have the closest possible relationship with the EU as the negotiations proceed and the options are explored. As long as the UK remains part of the EU, as a Green MEP I will continue to work for the best interests of progressive politics, for my constituents in London and for the UK as a whole. The rights of EU nationals living in the UK and the rights of UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU are also important issues, and I will be arguing that these rights need protecting.