There is a deep-rooted connection between UK climate science deniers and those campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union.
On 23 June 2016 the UK will vote in the EU referendum on whether Britain should remain part of the European Union. The 'Brexit' vote comes after Prime Minister David Cameron promised in his 2015 Conservative Party election manifesto to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU before the end of 2017.
Since then, the link between climate science deniers and Eurosceptics has become more pronounced. In February 2016, it was revealed that Lord Lawson's climate denying Global Warming Policy Foundation had moved its headquarters into the same building as Brexit campaign groups 'Business for Britain' and 'Vote Leave', along with a slew of other right wing organisations including the TaxPayers' Alliance.
The Brexit-climate denier overlap stems from a common neoliberal ideology that fears top-down state interventions and regulations which are perceived as threatening values of individual freedom, economic (market) freedom, or the sovereignty of national governments. Under this logic, we must reject both the European Union and most climate policy.
And the influence of this small group extends beyond the walls of their 55 Tufton Street address - just a stone's throw from the Houses of Parliament - to include prominent politicians and traditional British media outlets. It begs the question: If the climate-euro sceptic bubble is successful on Brexit, what will then happen to British climate change policy?
LATEST NEWS ON BREXIT CLIMATE DENIERS
In a packed lecture hall a few hundred metres away from the Conservative Party Conference, climate science denier and hard-Brexiter MP Owen Paterson told the cheering crowd: “We are the mainstream of the Conservative Party.”
As the rift between different factions of the Conservative Party deepens over Brexit, Paterson, a political advisor to the group Leave Means Leave, was preaching to an audience already on his side of the divide.
He was speaking at the Alternative Brexit Conference, a one-day event which ran parallel to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Monday and required no pass or accreditation to attend.
Hardline Brexiters are calling on the UK government to cut EU environmental regulations to secure free-trade deals with the US, China and India after Brexit. Environmental NGOs said the plans were not credible if the UK was to fulfil its own environmental commitments, warning that the Brexit vote was not a mandate to lower standards.
The alternative Brexit plan, which is backed by former Brexit secretary David Davis and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and was published today by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), claims that if the UK continues to strengthen its regulatory environment, it will lead to “wealth destruction” and will “push people into poverty”.
The report slams the EU as saddling the UK with regulations that are “damaging to growth” and singles out environmental protection rules as one of the areas where EU regulation is “moving in an anti-competitive direction”.
Record-breaking offshore developments and decommissioning infrastructure have sent strong signals that the North Sea is getting ready for a genuine transition away from fossil fuels.
This week saw Shetland port Dales Voe named as the best ultra deep-water port for decommissioning oil rigs and other large infrastructure projects by accountants Ernst and Young. Operated by Lerwick Port Authority, Dales Voe was previously extended to allow defunct oil rigs to be moved for dismantling.
A pro-Brexit campaign group with ties to a neoliberal transatlantic network and climate science denial is emerging as a potentially influential player pushing for environmental deregulation and a “no deal” scenario.
Economists for Free Trade (EFT), formerly known as Economists for Brexit, has made the news recently following its report claiming that a cliff edge Brexit and adoption of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules would be “the very best” option for the UK.
The group claims to be a coalition of independent economists, but it has strong ties to Brexiteer Conservative MPs, right-leaning mainstream media and some well-known climate science deniers.
The group has long been pushing for a full break-up with the EU and has accused the Treasury and civil servants of misleading the public on the costs of Brexit and staying in the customs union.
A thinktank has been helping climate science deniers push their agenda on government ministers through its lobbying activities for a UK-US free trade deal, which could see the UK import products such as genetically modified (GM) beef and chlorinated chicken, an undercover investigation by Greenpeace’s Unearthed published in the Guardian reveals.
It exposed how the free-market thinktank the Institute for Economic Affairs is playing a pivotal role in enabling behind-the-scene discussions about a US-UK trade deal while advocating for a hard-Brexit with cabinet ministers.
The Unearthed investigation and a response published by the IEA, seen by DeSmog UK, also reveals details of how climate science deniers, including Tory hereditary peer and coal baron Matt Ridley and DUP MP Sammy Wilson, advocate for deregulation — including on food and environmental standards — as part of the IEA’s push for a hard-Brexit and stronger trans-Atlantic commercial links.
Nine right-wing organisations including think tanks pushing disinformation about climate change have been accused of mounting a coordinated campaign to push for a hard Brexit, according to court documents.
Whistleblower Shahmir Sanni, formerly of youth campaign group BeLeave, claims that think tanks and campaign groups held regular meeting at 55 Tufton Street — an office close to Westminster and home to the climate science denial group the Global Warming Policy Foundation — to “agree on a single set of right-wing talking points” and “securing more exposure to the public”.
Some of the topics discussed allegedly included “new policy announcement by the Labour Party, developments in the Brexit negotiations, or any other political news story”.
The accusations were made in documents from an employment tribunal setting out Sanni’s case against pressure group the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which he has accused of unfair dismissal after he spoke out about illegal behaviour at Vote Leave, the official pro-Brexit campaign group.
By Megan Darby, Climate Home News
The UK government has excluded climate change from a proposed post-Brexit green watchdog, raising concerns about enforcement of climate laws when the country leaves the EU.
In a consultation document, the department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) outlined plans to establish a body that could issue “advisory notices” if the government fell short of its duty to implement environmental law.
It would not be empowered to take the government to court, nor would it cover “matters related to climate change”, which Defra argued were covered by existing bodies, principally the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
Revelations continue to emerge about Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy that has found itself embroiled in a scandal around data privacy and electoral manipulation.
Three whistleblowers have gone public in the Guardian and Observer to outline how Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data to influence the outcomes of the US presidential election and Brexit referendum.
DeSmog UK has previously mapped how the company ties to climate science denial through its Brexit and Trump connections. Now, Nafeez Ahmed over at Motherboard has outlined how Cambridge Analytica has ties to the fossil fuel industry.
Do Brexiters and climate science deniers have a problem with women?
DeSmog UK has previously drawn links between climate science denial outfits based out of offices at 55 Tufton St, just around the corner from parliament. And research has shown that the impacts of climate change and Brexit will both affect the UK’s women disproportionately.
Yet, there is only a small percentage of women in leadership roles at organisations pushing for Brexit and to dampen the UK’s climate commitments, a DeSmog UK investigation reveals — and women who do speak out against these agendas are often subjected to horrific sexist abuse.
It has been a long, drawn out, process since the 2016 referendum, but a year today the UK is due to leave the EU. Amidst ongoing negotiations, fears of weakened environmental regulation and reduced ambition on the UK’s climate change policy continue to cause concern.
In this last leg of negotiations, the UK and the EU are due to agree a framework for their future relationship — a crucial phase for Westminster, which will aim to show the UK can retain its foreign and economic influence post-Brexit.
Yet, hardline Brexiteers’ strong position in Theresa May’s cabinet have left the door open for free-market and pro-deregulation ideologues to influence government policy. As DeSmog UK has previously shown, there are deep-rooted connections between those advocating a hard Brexit and climate science deniers both in the UK and in the US.
With the October 2018 deadline for a final Brexit deal looming, the fate of environmental regulation therefore deserves close attention.