London, UK. 10 Mar, 2015. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education and then Chief Whip arriving at a Cabinet Meeting in Downing Street, Photo by Pete Maclaine, Shutterstock.

Amidst warnings about life after Brexit, Michael Gove is breaking his silence, once more, to tell us that Brexit will help create a “greener, cleaner, better” planet.

This week we heard about the Brexit bill that needs to be paid in order for the negotiations to continue, and about rebellious Tory and Labour MPs conspiring to overthrow Theresa May, while many others condemned the repeal bill and demanded significant changes. 15 Conservative MPs and a Labour MP want to prevent a hard Brexit and are seeking to support a Norway-style agreement to alleviate economic troubles in the UK. This view is supported by many voters who are now rethinking Brexit and reconsidering the benefits of a strong trade with the EU, instead of remaining anchored to the impossible task of controlling free movement. A survey by King’s College London and Cambridge University showed that voters will back a Norway-style relationship which would mean access to the single market and freedom of movement, while losing some sovereignty. 

Lord Adonis

This concern with remaining in the single market has been expressed by Labour Peer Lord Andrew Adonis. He is in some trouble after claiming that Britain is in “serious danger” of getting Brexit wrong if it loses access to the single market. 

Lord Adonis explained that Brexit was as big as decolonisation in the 1950s and 60s and appeasement in the 1930s. Appeasement refers to any diplomatic policy that makes political concessions to enemies in order to avoid conflict. Particularly, it applies to the British foreign policy towards Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy between 1935 and 1939, where political concessions to the enemy instead of direct conflict, helped strengthen Hitler’s power, while retaining peace. 

"To my mind, it’s as big a step that we’re taking as a country as decolonisation in the 1950s and 60s and appeasement in the 1930s. We got it right on decolonisation; we got it wrong on appeasement and I think we’re in serious danger of getting it wrong in the way that we leave the EU."

He said: “If we can’t have our cake and eat it then we face a serious relative decline in our living standards compared with France and Germany and I don’t believe the British people will put up with that. So we would, in that event, I believe face a crisis. It may be a crisis played out over quite a number of years – which, after all, is what happened with appeasement – but there will be a crisis.”

In an interview with the BBC, Lord Adonis reiterated his point and said that hard Brexit “will be the worst mistake this country has made since the 1930s." He also added that it was “only a matter of time” before Jeremy Corbyn backs the single market.”

Michael Gove

But the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has a different version of the same story, delivered with his generous positivity. Brexit won’t be a terrible mistake but a great leap into the future with some environmental benefits. 

Curbing his pre-referendum enthusiasm for a hard Brexit of limitless opportunities—which, to be honest, has landed him his current post, despite his fruitless bid for PM—Gove is now a man in a “listening mode,” who is no longer willing to preach but to hear peoples’ “concerns and hopes,” for a better world in post-Brexit UK. Who said that people don’t change?

In a reception by the Green Alliance charity and think tank, Gove said that he wanted new farming and fishing policies that “put the environment first,” since now with Brexit the UK has a “‘unique challenge’ to ameliorate the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).” 

His speech comes after the publication of the repeal bill, so he explained that he was open to all concerns regarding the legislation. He said that the UK has a "‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to use Brexit as a political platform to become a global leader in the fight against climate change, and to help deliver a ‘greener, cleaner, better, richer’ planet.”

However, many green groups are concerned with the repeal bill which “lacks specific provisions for enforcing environmental laws.” As with other concerns with the repeal bill, the fact that there is a “governance gap” which could allow the government to change environmental legislation without parliamentary consultation is something that creates uncertainty about the way future governments will deal with the environment. The Green Alliance's director Shaun Spiers said: "The Bill is very disappointing in many respects. It falls well short of our expectations and I really hope the Government will think again and amend it."

Whether Brexit might be the worst mistake Britain has made since the 1930s or the best thing that ever happened to the UK, these are equally valid opinions. But, on Monday when the second round of Brexit talks begins, the focus will fall on the repeal bill and EU citizens’ rights, which are factual and affect real citizens’ lives.