We’re in the eye of the Brexit Storm. Further turbulence is due over the next couple of weeks with the EU Summit, the sitting of Parliament on Saturday, the votes on the Queen’s Speech and Halloween all rushing up at us at breakneck speed. (The good news of 31 October will be the end of an era - as Mr Speaker Bercow, the President of the EU Parliament’s new best friend, stands down.)
The Queen comes to Parliament on Monday to lay out the legislative programme for the year ahead, although few of us expect it to happen this side of a General Election. She will arrive with the full panoply of state ceremony, always assuming that XR allow her carriage through. (I’d have thought real horsepower might be preferable to a carbon-guzzling Rolls Royce.) I must say, they were very polite in the various interactions I had with Extinction Rebellion last week. I rather support their agenda, but just wish they could make their point without putting everyone else in London to such inconvenience.
By contrast, I attended a thoroughly civilised debate on Climate Change and the Environment at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy last Friday. People there made their views very plain, and I agreed with most of them. However I do wonder about the use of the expression ‘Climate Emergency’. Surely an ‘Emergency’ is an event to which there is an immediate and urgent remedy. The house is on fire, so we evacuate and call the Fire Brigade. There is realistically no such immediate, obvious and dramatic solution to our Global Carbon crisis. That means that when we meet this time next year, it may well be hard to discern much urgent change. You can’t have an indefinite Emergency.
Leaving semantics on one side, I was also glad to take part in a debate in Parliament during the week on Amazon fires and deforestation, and then to chair a very full debate on Climate Change and the Net Zero Target. Those debates - and that in RWB Academy - may have been prompted by the XR activists glueing themselves to lorries outside; but that does not necessarily justify their behaviour, which, had the Police not countered it so effectively, have actually prevented Parliament from meeting to discuss their concerns. What an irony that would have been.
For the first time in 23 years I am to spend this weekend in Westminster attending the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (always assuming that the delegates from all over the World can actually get there through the protestors.) Events in Syria are a true Emergency. The Turks, who are members of NATO are attacking the Syrian Kurds who are supported by the Americans and Brits, also of course NATO members. Get this one wrong and the whole Middle East could very easily be engulfed in warfare, which would make Brexit and Climate Change look insignificant by comparison. That is truly an Emergency, and I am happy to give up a Wiltshire weekend to discuss it.
Brexit is an Emergency. We have days to sort it out; and we must make sure that we get it right. Our votes in Parliament, our negotiations in Brussels, have an immediate and crucial effect on our futures and our belief in democracy. Syria is an emergency, and I hope that our NATO debates over the weekend may help to damp it down at least a little. Climate Change is just as (or arguably more) important; but it is, prima facie, less of an ‘Emergency.’