Defusing the Environmental Logic Bomb in Brexit
Logic Bomb – def: A logic bomb is malware that is triggered by a response to an event or when a specific date/time is reached.
I recently participated in the People`s Vote march in London, as avid readers of my Facebook posts will know. I have never been much of one for demonstrations and marches on the basis that so many of them have proved to be counter-productive rather than influential in a significant way. I did speak at an anti-Iraq-War rally in Nottingham, which salved my conscience, both before the event and afterwards, too. Sadly, it had little effect on events at the time.
The People`s Vote March in London felt different, however, and still feels different in hindsight. It helped, of course, that it was a delightfully sunny day and the mood was light, friendly and full of camaraderie. There was music of various kinds and various volumes to entertain us, one of my favourites being “Rinky-Dink” – a quirky mobile disco using cycle power to move it AND cycle power to raise the volume (the faster and harder the rear-cyclists pedal the louder it plays apparently!)
Also, we had a good contingent of Green Liberal Democrat members there with double sided, recyclable posters (the Green Party posters were made of plastic by the way!) and Graham Neale, our GLD Chair had made about a hundred of these posters up, so the rest were handed out to sympathetic Lib Dems, raising our profile within the crowd and were spread across social media too in lots of march photographs.
We also featured what one colleague has called “Guerrilla Marketing” for the group, with not only our members wearing our special Hi-Viz jackets, saying “Green Liberal Democrats – Action not words”, but with a few judicious gifts we managed to get some high-profile Lib Dems wearing the jackets too. As the photos show, both Sir Ed Davey, one of our current MPs and Sir Simon Hughes, one of our former MPs, took very little persuading to don the GLD publicity!
But, what has this got to do with the Environmental Logic Bomb and Brexit, referred to in the title above, I hear you ask. Well, let`s get serious for a minute. The march was both big enough and peaceful enough to make an impact, even on the BBC, which many anti-Brexit campaigners suggest has been very biased in favour of Brexit, previously ignoring, almost totally, earlier anti-Brexit marches. The figures quoted have varied significantly, from as low as 130,000 (dismissively) from a Brexit supporter to as high as 840,000. The number which seems to have stuck most frequently as an accepted figure is that the march contained about 700,000 people – over ONE percent of the total UK population, or more than the total population of a Greater Nottingham or a Greater Leicester.
Certainly I understand that Parliament Square was already full to the brim when there were still many thousands of people still standing in Hyde Park, not even having started to march towards the centre.
Doubtless for many, perhaps the majority, of those 700,000 people a key reason for being there was to raise the issue of the economic problems we will face if we actually leave the EU in even the softest of Brexits and the certainty of economic disaster if we end up with a “No-Deal” situation next March. Also, for many, there is a realisation that the Union of European countries has been a major factor in the enhancement of peaceful co-existence in an area of the world which has been at war, almost continuously for around a thousand years, perhaps longer. (It is, after all, not many years hence that we will be “celebrating”, if that is the correct word, the invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings by the Duc de Normandie, more usually referred to as William the Conqueror. 1066 and all that – by which time I shall be 119, if I last that long)
For me, however, whilst all that peace and economic surety is important, the most significant features of the European Project have been the Environmental Protections that have been put in place and the ongoing exertions to try and resolve the issues driving us towards deadly Climate Change. Already the deadening effect of negotiating (unsuccessfully) about the dreaded Brexit has imposed a huge opportunity cost on tackling Climate Change, which is truly an existential threat to humanity (and very large swathes of fauna and flora) around the globe.
This hugely incompetent Government and equally incompetent Labour (“so-called”) Opposition are spending most of their precious Parliamentary time trying to resolve the impossibilist demands of brexiteers, against the brick wall of concerted European agreement that we cannot have our cake AND eat it.
Environmental Logic Bomb
The Brexit Environmental Logic Bomb is “political malware” that will be triggered by the specific date and time of leaving the EU – next March 29th, 2019. It is already in place. It was put into place by Mrs May with the active connivance of Jeremy Corbyn months ago when the European Withdrawal Bill was enacted and received Royal Assent on 26th June 2018. Debate upon the Bill was sparse, to say the least and it give the Government and, more specifically, Government Ministers totally Henry Vlll powers to scrap provisions of 40 years-worth of European-wide well-debated legislation protecting our environment.
It is worth noting, by the way, that there were many chants at the People`s Vote March of the refrain “Where`s Jeremy Corbyn?”. His entirely avoidable absence from the march was noted and may prove to be his biggest political misjudgement yet (and there have been quite a few of those!), putting himself clearly on the wrong side of history. I believe, too, that Mrs May`s continued refusal to contemplate a People`s Vote on the final deal puts her on the wrong side of history. Both she and Corbyn and their very different core supporters vouchsafe their supposed conviction that some kind of deal can be done which will ensure economic benefits for all, carry on protecting our environment and “take back control” – but the truth is we never really lost “control”.
At the same time, we have cleaned our beaches, cleaned the rivers and protected the integrity of our foods (well, up to a certain point we have, at least!) with the assistance of like-minded citizens across Europe, in the face of businesses happily polluting the “common wealth” of our environment in the expectation that the public purse will pick up the tab for keeping the environment clean – in jargon it is called “externalising the costs” of pollution.
Also, at the same time the countries of the EU have made more progress, together, than we ever would have separately, in building a consensus to create more renewable energy (not least prompted by Liberal Democrats during the coalition years, it has to be said!) We have put into place energy “interconnectors” to share renewable energy production using wind or sun across the Channel, when sun or wind is not providing enough electricity in one part of Europe.
All of this progress will be subject to the calamitous Environmental Logic Bomb. And there are multiple detonators of the “If this … , then that…” variety.
Detonator #1: If there is “No Deal”
If there is no deal, then the system breaks down and there will be a significant period of confusion where the Government has already indicated they will “keep the borders open with as little disruption as possible“. This would be an invitation for all sorts of unscrupulous rogues to flout current environmental regulations with relatively little risk of being picked up. The Government will not want to cause delays and gridlock by stopping potentially dodgy importers – this risk has already been flagged up and broadly acknowledged with respect to smuggling stuff in duty free, but nobody seems to have mentioned the environmental rogues (and we KNOW there are plenty. You only have to see where much of our supposedly recyclable plastic waste has ended up when China stopped importing such recyclables, to know there ARE rogues out there!)
Detonator #2: If there is a fudged deal
This is actually a dual detonator. If Mrs May manages to cobble something together at the last negotiating minute that she can “sell” to her party (and this raises all sorts of questions about spineless politicians that I shall choose to ignore today) and Labour acquiesces once again as Mrs May`s “enabler” this could last a little while until the restless Leavers decide to upset the apple cart and rebel, therefore leading back to Detonator #1, when they realise they have been essentially conned and we are stuck in the worst of both worlds – basically having to do as we are told by the EU, but with no recourse to the negotiating table, because we would have no seat at that table.
If, on the other hand, the deal is sufficiently robust to last a while (personally I do not think this is possible but let us allow it for the sake of argument!) then it will not be long before one or other of Mrs May`s ministers uses the Henry Vlll powers to change the rules by ministerial diktat rather than through a proper debate in the House of Commons. And we KNOW this will happen because the Tories have already “got form”.
Just look back less than three years. Under the Coalition before 2015, regulations were agreed to require new-build houses to be built to much higher environmental specifications with respect to insulation and so on. As soon as the Tories “had the place to themselves” they repealed this new legislation in 2016 even before it had chance to be put into effect, allowing builders to remain in the market providing, effectively, `sub-standard housing` – a retrograde step to say the least!
Defusing the Logic Bomb
There are two ways to defuse the Logic Bomb and they will only work if we change the “If THIS…” bit of the equation. The first way would be simply to revoke Article 50 which would require a Government with enough “Cojones” to stand up and say “Look folks, we have tried our best, but this really is NOT going to work and we believe it is securely in the interests of all the peoples of this United Kingdom, the environment and our European ideals of the four Freedoms.” However, barring a potential legal case going through the courts now challenging the validity of the passing of Article 50, this is politically not going to happen. I suppose there is the faintest of possibilities that a new Cross-Party grouping of MPs who believe in Europe manages to oust Mrs May, but I have to say it looks very unlikely.
The second way to defuse the Environmental Logic Bomb takes me back to the start of this blog post and it would be to hold a People`s Vote on the Deal that Mrs May might try to introduce to avoid the “No Deal” scenario. This is a scenario that even the Chancellor is now saying would be a catastrophe for the country. If the “No Deal” result is swept aside, the People`s Vote should then be held to ask the Question “Will you support the Government fudged deal, or take the safest Environmental route by staying inside the European Union?” If that question still elicits support for Brexit then we must accept that Brexit actually does mean Brexit, horrendous though that appears to staunch Remainers like me.
But that Logic Bomb would still be present and would cause major casualties on the environmental front, if it were to be detonated!!