Stroud based Molly Scott Cato is the Green Party’s financial spokesman, an economist and an environmental activist who is the current MEP for South West England
LAST week chancellor Philip Hammond delivered a budget that revealed Brexit has stolen all the clothes.
So distracted are government departments with the process of leaving the EU that they are putting all their energies into trying to sort out the government’s Brexit shambles.
This means major crises such as climate change and air pollution – and the future of food and farming – failed to even get a mention and are left naked without any sort of plan.
There is further evidence that government departments are completely swamped by Brexit.
Caroline Lucas MP asked a question to Defra on how many full-time equivalent civil servants are working on the EU Exit programme and the budget allocated to that programme.
While the question failed to elicit a clear response, Secretary of State, George Eustice, acknowledged that 80 per cent of Defra’s work is framed by EU legislation.
Civil servants must be so involved in the process of extricating the UK from the EU that there is no time to develop any sort of coherent plan for the environment or for the food and farming sectors.
A further question to Defra asked what research the Government has commissioned to inform the development of agricultural and environmental policy once the UK leaves the EU. The answer: none.
Of course, the environment has always been way down the list of priorities for this government; it didn’t even feature in Theresa May’s 12-point plan for Brexit.
And the fact that the chancellor offered more subsidies for fossil fuels and tax cuts for corporations in his Budget reveals a worrying direction of travel as we move to leave the EU.
With the government failing to offer any plans post-Brexit, it is up to environmental groups, NGOs, other political parties and, dare I suggest, experts, to capture the public’s imagination by putting forward some visionary ideas.
The Green Party have a report on how to safeguard our environment post-Brexit and two reports on farming to inform policy makers. A ‘Greener UK coalition’ made up of leading campaign groups has also launched a Brexit environmental manifesto.
Brexit may have stolen the clothes but if the government is willing to listen we can tailor a better future for our environment.