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Baroness Jones: It's time we rethink Brexit and restore closer ties with the EU

3 min read

I’m fed up with the government’s Brexit mess. This government has made such a mess of Brexit that I think we have to start talking to the EU about options for restoring closer ties.

Unlike most others in my party, I voted for Brexit and campaigned for Brexit. I was with the majority of voters in the referendum and like many of them, I now have serious misgivings. A poll last week found that for the first time a majority of people want to rejoin the EU.

Things are shifting as the realities of long queues at the border, roaming charges and export companies going bankrupt, become an everyday norm. There are people making specialist bread, exporting sea food or wine, who can’t sell to Europe anymore because of the form filling. It’s crippled hundreds of small businesses. For me, the worse thing is the stories of crops being left to rot in the ground due a shortage of labour when we have millions in the United Kingdom going without food.

Instead of protecting standards, we sign trade deals that are a race to the bottom

I thought Brexit was a good idea because I shared the view of some on the left that we could become a better country if we ditched EU bureaucracy and the ridiculous farming subsidy system. I imagined higher food and animal welfare legislation and more healthy localism. Back in the days of Tony Benn and Bob Crow, the Green Party used to be against membership of the EU and when the party became pro-EU I stuck with what I believed was right.

But now, having watched the mess that this government have made of it, I’m back with the rest of my party. This isn’t a sudden conversion – I voted against the Withdrawal Bill and for keeping the freedom of movement. I hated the xenophobia of the right-wing Leave campaign and feel that Brexit has become one of the many backward steps that has hit the life chances of young people.

The Brexiteers in government have ruined so much that was great about our country and stirred up hatred and division as a way of getting power and keeping it. Instead of getting rid of red tape, companies now spend millions of pounds on post Brexit export forms, or simply give up and go out of business.

Instead of protecting standards, we sign trade deals that are a race to the bottom and undermine family farmers. Instead of reaching for higher environmental standards, we pump sewage into our rivers and ministers talk of destroying wildlife protections.

For the sake of international law and common sense, I will be voting against the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. It is a hugely dangerous piece of legislation that threatens the Good Friday Agreement and will also damage the economy of Northern Ireland – currently doing much better, by virtue of being partly inside the EU, than any region of England and Wales except London.

I get that the unionist community was betrayed by incompetent leaders who bought Boris Johnson’s lies about no border in the Irish sea, but could I suggest they would be better off voting for someone else?

We need a co-operative relationship with the EU. Reneging on an agreement we signed with the UK’s biggest trading partner is not a sensible plan. To do it in the middle of a major economic crisis is just plain stupidity.


Baroness Jones is a Green Party peer. 

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