True British non-skeptics approach the Brexit drama – POLITICO

LONDON – The backlash against Boris Johnson’s plan to cut Britain’s carbon emissions is gaining prominent support in the UK – and it is wiping away the books used by the Brexit campaign.

The political campaign against the UK’s net zero agenda shares many of the same key figures – and tactics – as the successful attempt to get the UK out of the EU. But there is still a long way to go to compete with Brexiteers for influence.

Ahead so far is the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, a small but reputable caucus of Conservative MPs who say they have nothing to do with the goal of fighting climate change but question where costs will be reduced.

They have now been joined by none other than Nigel Farage, the former MEP who helped get the Tories to hold an EU referendum in the first place. His newly launched “Voting Power, No Poverty” campaign invites voters to “take back control of our energy and pricing policies” – a clear callback to the tagline. mainstream of the pro-Brexit trend – and it requires a referendum on the UK’s legal commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Farage told POLITICO that the consensus behind net zero is “such a view of Westminster” maintained by “Zac and the gang” – a reference to Zac Goldsmith, the environment minister and one of the greenest members of the Johnson government.

Farage added: “My feeling is that once people get their Q1 bill, people will say ‘well wait a minute, what’s going on here? Why are you doing this to us? ‘”

Farage’s involvement provides a fine line on the continuum between Brexit and pure zero skepticism – but the similarities don’t end there.

Close links

Steve Baker, a serial Tory rebel who was one of the first to begin publicly calling for more debate about green measures, was also a key figure in the so-called “Spartan” wing of the political parties. Brexiteer MP, who successfully thwarted Theresa May’s attempt to get a softer Brexit.

Craig Mackinlay, who chairs the NZSG, was a senior figure in Farage’s former group, the UK Independence Party, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Meanwhile, the structure of the NZSG bears some resemblance to the Influential Study Group of European Parliamentarians. Both adopt the preferred Tory model of strong but ultimately stable pockets of protest within the congressional party. About half of NZSGs are also ERG members, according to research shared with POLITICO by climate news website DeSmog.

As one Conservative MP put it: “The NZSG is a kind of Spartan group that doesn’t have a realistic majority and just ends up creating Tory hell by swinging around.”

DeSmog tracks the overlap between the Brexit campaign and new groups aimed at Johnson’s climate policy. Surname establish Leave means Leave – the pressure group led by Farage over Brexit – has renamed the Twitter account, along with nearly 80,000 followers, to Voting Power, Not Poverty. POLITICO verified the change separately.

According to Family company. BMB .’s Twitter account now redirect to Voting Power, Not Poverty – Farage’s campaign.

Meanwhile, familiar faces swirl around the boards of various groups, including Leaving the Vehicle, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) – a think-tank long associated with information climate misinformation – and the new campaign branch of the GWPF Net Zero Watch.

According to Jennie King, head of civic action and education at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, this multi-group categorization is designed to create the illusion that the campaign is larger than it really is. King, whose London-based think tank targets extremism, hate and misinformation online.

Electoral Power, Not Poverty has chosen where the original Brexit Party – whose influential campaigning helped hasten Theresa May’s departure from office – left. The current incarnation of that group, as the impatient Reform Party of COVID, has never been successful, allowing frontman Richard Tice time to join Farage on his latest mission.

A warm-up rally for the new group is scheduled to take place in the northwestern town of Bolton, where the Brexit Party held its first rally in 2018. Speakers include John Longworth, the former director of the Brexit Party. Leave Means Leave and Graham Stringer, a pro-Brexit Labor MP who is also a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Fund.

The leaders of the new movement show they are targeting a similar demographic as the Leave campaign and claim that the current, therefore, current political establishment has underestimated the frustration. of lower-income voters.

An adviser to Farage’s new outfit said the “elite” didn’t care about the cost of installing a heat pump for “someone who lives in a terraced house in Blackburn.”

Baker predicts that what was on a few people’s radar last year “will become a very common cause.”

In fact, the rise in energy prices is being driven by soaring gas prices, not by the government’s pursuit of net zero, according to the report. International Energy Agencyurged instead to double down on the transition away from fossil fuels.

Baker soon realized that concern about green policies could be tied to the rising cost of living. But they could not have foreseen how brutal the pressure on household budgets would become when squeezed harder by new taxes, high inflation and war in Ukraine. What seems like an outside bet is now the premise and center of the political agenda.

‘The majority is silent’

Although there are many threads connecting the two causes, however, the analogy only goes so far.

Although the Leave faction was never seriously expected to win the referendum, European skepticism has been a long tradition in British politics. It boasts supporters across the political spectrum and has done so since the idea of ​​a European union was conceived.

There has always been a sizable group of euro skeptics within the Conservative Party, even if they were not given more weight in the face of the Brexit shock, while successive Westminster and European elections from 2010 onwards away shows an increasingly solid euro skeptic vote.

Meanwhile, the current brand of pure zero skepticism seems fledgling, uncertain, and presently a minority pursuit. This is a point made by the figures of both sides.

Chris Skidmore, a former minister who founded the Net Zero Support Group, said he formed the group because he felt the need to speak out for the “silent majority”, who advocate for climate action in the party.

“I don’t think the risk of Brexit is the same here as so many pro-Brexit MPs have no net profit either,” he argued, pointing to what the government likes to call the “green industrial revolution” in the EU. the production boost in stripping the north seat that Johnson won in 2019.

Baker in turn dismissed the similarities between the NZSG and Brexiteers as “the bad guys”, arguing that the ERG was able to influence the Brexit process, but “in terms of net zero we will never win any any vote in the House of Commons because Labor will always be greener than the Conservatives, if that is possible.”

There is a deeper difference between the two campaigns. The Leave Settlement campaign is based on one clear stated goal: to get the UK out of the EU.

It is much less clear than what the end of the war against net zero is. NZSG members say it’s about providing oversight and accountability – but that’s hard to imagine in terms of a campaign bus.

As the famous center-left journalist Tom Harwood I’ve been contemplating lately on Twitter: “If we held a referendum on net zero and the country somehow voted against it – this means that when technological progress inadvertently makes us equal not by 2050, the government will have to step in to pump out more CO2. to make sure we’re not carbon neutral? “

According to a study on social media sentiment towards POLITICO conducted by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue for POLITICO. On Facebook and Twitter, there are two obvious conversations around the UK-hosted COP26 climate summit and Farage’s recent campaign announcement. But between those two, the problem seems to be faced with almost no silence.

“There is little maintenance and grassroots concern” on Facebook or Twitter, the group said. The spike coincided with articles or interviews in the British press – often authored or related to Farage or Tice – then shared by the pair and a number of other media advocates . Besides, some influential posters have really pushed the idea forward. In fact, of the top 20 posts on Twitter, Monday and Thursday being shared the most is important.

“We think they will try to increase public support and see this as a defining theme of British public life, until Westminster feels pressured to respond,” said ISD’s King. guess.

‘The firecracker is wet’

For their part, green groups were mostly unmoved by Farage and company’s arrival in their territory. They see it as a new opportunity to push the government to do long-term thinking about moving the economy away from fossil fuels which has not yet followed the UK’s top pledges to net zero.

“Obviously don’t underestimate Farage, but so far it feels like a wet squib, and time-wise that’s the thing,” said Joss Garman, UK director of the European Climate Organization. It was horrible for them.” that we should use more gas when gas six times more expensive than the clean energy sources he’s trying to prevent, and now he’s doing it, described [Russian President] Putin is the politician he most admires. Voters aren’t stupid, he’s very revealing right now. ”

Similarly, the British government does not appear to be afraid. Johnson wrote in an op-ed this week – even as he couldn’t resist casting his own “control back” spell.

Pure skeptics may have tried to pull disruption back onto the agenda, but opposition to shale gas exploration within the Conservative Party remains acrimonious. One MP said a change to fracking would mean the loss of a host of seats in key areas such as Lancashire and Derbyshire, and that “No. 10 understand election math. ”

Polls show support for tackling climate change is growing and named by more voters as a priority. Note that the NZSG in its sights is not much willing to pay more contribute to combating climate change.

Meanwhile, it acts as a vehicle to test a potential new power base by the opposition, both within the Conservative Party and at home in general, which could fill the vacuum so occupied by Brexit. long time ago.

“Baker and his associates are working on something where the support for net zero is extremely broad and extremely shallow,” commented a Conservative adviser.

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