Manifesto Check: Green Party has no clear vision on the EU

Big launch, small vision. Will Oliver/EPA

It is noticeable that the Green Party manifesto has a very short section on Europe. Despite heightened discussions regarding British membership of the EU and a potential in-or-out referendum, the section on Europe is a third of a page long and features towards the end of the manifesto as part of the chapter on international affairs.

This is a sign that first the party does not consider the issue as particularly important and second that it sees Europe mostly as an issue of foreign policy – external to the domestic politics agenda – unlike anti-EU parties such as UKIP.

The party makes a pro-European statement arguing that Britain is part of Europe. It praises the EU for its progressive policies on rights, peace and security, culture and financial regulation.

It also praises the EU for environmental protection. This makes sense given that the EU has been a key driver of international negotiations on climate change, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. The EU has confirmed its commitment to a low-carbon path, it has set high targets for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions progressively up to 2050, and it has committed to cutting its emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.

The party is critical towards joining the eurozone. It argues that the political integration this would entail would be against Green policy of subsidiarity, that is, the principle that politics must be handled at the lowest level of authority. This argument seems to be slightly twisted. Deeper political integration is not necessarily contrary to the principle of subsidiarity. In fact, the EU system is based on the principle of subsidiarity, which is legally established in Article five of the treaty on European Union.

The Greens make an open claim in favour of an in-or-out referendum “so that the British people can have their say”. This is in line with the party’s rhetoric that policies should be close to the people. The manifesto suggests – although not explicitly – that the Greens would campaign in favour of Britain staying in the EU. They support a reformed EU but do not mention what exactly they would like to see reformed. Conspicuous by its absence is the economic dimension of Britain’s EU membership. There is no discussion of key issues, such as trade, regulation, governance, investments and so on.

The party does make a reference to the issue of EU migration. This is approached through an ethical perspective: it is wrong to scapegoat immigrants. But then again this is also somewhat contradictory: on the one hand the party rejects an open border approach; on the other hand it is not clarified whether this refers to EU migrants or migrants in general; and the party sustains that controls should respect mutual obligations within the EU on freedom of movement.

Overall there is no substantive policy on the EU, suggesting that the Green Party has no clear vision regarding what type of EU they want and what type of reform and negotiation would be needed for Britain to remain a member.

The Conversation’s Manifesto Check deploys academic expertise to scrutinise the parties’ plans.