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The Climate Change vs. Brexit election: what are we voting for?

By Lily Owen

Now that Boris Johnson’s infamous 31st October Brexit deadline has passed, the race is on for him to “get Brexit done”, calling for a December snap election to establish his mandate. However, against a social backdrop of Extinction Rebellion, school strikes and ‘the Great Thunberg effect’, could this actually be the ‘climate election’?

A poll of more than 2,000 people for ClientEarth, run by Opinium, has found that 54% thought that the issue of climate change would “greatly” or “somewhat” influence their decision on the 12th December. 63% also voted that politicians are not discussing climate change enough on their campaign trails, with Brexit consuming the political narrative. Even back in July, BritainThinks revealed that the British public now worries more about climate change than other issues, such as terrorism, crime, immigration and housing.

Just as the Brexit referendum marked a vote for generations to come, a vote on the climate change crisis is a vote for the preservation of a world where such generations can continue to prosper. Only a year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we have little over a decade to keep temperature rises below 1.5C and, as such, it seems paradoxical to be basing our election of a new government for the next five years on their ability to take us out of the EU, when in another five, our climate negligence could have fatal consequences.

Many may argue that, as such a defining factor of future policy in general, Brexit is also for the next five years and our making a success of it will determine the execution of the rest: environment, immigration, the NHS and education etc. However, it has become clear to voters that we will have to wait until Britain has finally left the EU before we can truly establish trading relationships. Johnson’s ‘deal’ only covers the divorce terms, not the relationship to follow. Therefore, to ignore party plans for other aspects of change required in society is to forget that there is in fact life beyond Brexit.

The UK has received its final extension deadline and once this passes, the new government must be prepared to face a new ‘normal’. Brexit cannot always be the distraction it has so far served to be, and reassurances will be required for various working sectors in the form of new policies. This election is a chance to potentially save the NHS from a catastrophic trade deal with America that could see its collapse; to better invest in a more non-discriminatory education system; and to finally see an end to austerity. None of these issues go away after the 31st January, when we are next due to leave the EU and less than two months under a new government.

Whoever ends up winning the election, as well as meeting with EU officials and potentially renegotiating a deal, there is the crucial COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year to consider. With the UK historically being one of the world’s largest polluters, our responsibility in leading this discussion is just as critical as that of honouring the result of the 2017 referendum.

To help better inform the decision that you make on the 12th December, here is a more extensive overview of what each party is offering:


Brexit – Leave on Johnson’s deal no later than the end of January 2020

Climate change – ‘Infrastructure Revolution’, introducing electric buses and new, green cycle schemes

– Net-zero emissions target for 2050

– Improve air quality in some of the most polluted areas

Immigration – Australia-style points based system

– Encourage health staff from other countries to come and work in the UK and introducing a new visa type to do so

– Visa charges will be cut

NHS – Biggest programme of NHS investment for a generation: a funding boost of £33.9bn by 2023/24

– Upgrading 20 hospitals and building 40 more

Education – £14bn investment in schools

– Improved discipline and standards in the classroom

– Increase in teachers’ salaries to £30,000 by 2022/23

Crime – 20,000 more police on the streets in England and Wales over 3 years

– 10,000 more prison places to be made available


Brexit – Second referendum on a new Labour deal (A new customs union, close single market relationship, guarantee of rights and protections, respecting of Good Friday Agreement – if awarded) vs. option to remain

Climate Change – Green New Deal, which includes installing solar panels on almost 2 million homes

– New Clean Air Act

– Net-zero emissions target for 2030

– Nationalise the big 6 energy companies

– Free or affordable green public transport and interest-free loans to purchase electric cars

Immigration – Extend voting rights to foreign nationals who legally reside in the UK

– Allow EU citizens continued rights to relocate and work in the UK after Brexit

· NHS – National Care Service (NCS) to introduce free personal care for the elderly, end 15min care visits, better wages for carers and raise social care standards

– Guarantee patients can be seen in A&E within 4 hours

– Scrap prescription charges to bring England in line with the rest of the UK

– Free parking in NHS England

– Increase number of GP trainees in England by 50%

Education – Creation of a unified National Education Service (NES) for free learning in England

– Abolish Ofsted and replace with two-phase inspection system

– Cut tax loopholes used by elite private schools and use the money to fund improvements in education across the country

Worker’s rights – Give all workers the right to choose their own hours on their first day, unless the business can prove this unworkable

– Extend statutory maternity leave from 9 months to 12

– Require large firms to have menopause policies for workers

Liberal Democrats:

Brexit – Revoke Article 50 and Remain (don’t mind idea of second referendum)

Climate Change – Ban on fracking

– Cutting air pollution

– £15bn investment in home insulation improvements

– Double solar and wind power by 2030

– Net-zero emissions target for 2045

Immigration – Allow asylum seekers and refugees to work within 3 months of entering the country, whilst waiting for a decision

– Ditch the Conservative net-migration target

NHS – Match waiting times for mental health care to those of physical

– Limit social care fees for the elderly

Education – Reverse cuts to school funding

– Guarantee all teachers a pay rise in line with inflation

– Abolish Ofsted and school league tables

– Subsidised care for children of working families

Crime – Recruitment of more police officers


Brexit – Second referendum and campaign to Remain

Climate change – Pledge to invest £100bn per year for a decade

– Make Britain carbon neutral by 2030, upgrading the national transport infrastructure and building energy-efficient homes

– Expand marine protected areas until they cover 20% of our seas

– Ban non-recyclable plastics and create a supportive environment for the development of sustainable alternatives

Immigration – Introduce humanitarian visas to allow refugees safe routes to sanctuary

– Find alternative to the current Dublin system so that all member states of the EU play their part in providing sanctuary to refugees

Social issues – Promise to build more affordable housing


Brexit – Halt or revoke Article 50 to allow a second Scottish referendum for independence and to remain in the EU

NHS – Introduction of NHS Protection Bill to block privatisation of the NHS and its involvement in any future trade deals (this would also offer Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a veto on any proposed trade deals)

Social issues – End to austerity with new investment in public services

– Devolution of drug laws to better tackle public health emergency

– Protection of worker’s rights and increase of living wage

– End to two child cap, the rape clause and an end to the inequity of universal credit

Brexit Party:

Brexit – No deal

Look out for upcoming Manifesto launches from each party in the run up to December!