If you pay all of five seconds of attention to the news cycle on any given day, you’ll notice that it’s dominated by Brexit. We all watch in bewilderment and frustration at what comes out from the House of Commons. Everything feels unprecedented in the worst way possible. Each failed vote, each day of arguing, each plunging us into more uncertainty.
While Theresa May struggles to get any kind of coherent outcome to the referendum held almost 3 years ago, everything else seems to be slipping under Parliament’s radar. Finding solutions to the underfunded NHS, homelessness, and extortionate university tuition fees are all being pushed to the side for the countless votes and endless debates.
A particularly important issue with a time constraint is the environment. Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party, wrote for the Independent this week about how Brexit is overtaking the important conversations needed to keep our planet sustainable. She mentions that the time for talking is now, saying that “we cannot allow Brexit to swallow up our futures”. The fact the UN warned that we only have until 2030 to limit irreversible climate change makes the government’s faffing all the more troubling.
What makes matters even worse is that there is still an impasse, with Theresa May writing to the EU today to buy yet more time to work things out. She will try to negotiate an extension until the 30th June. Whether she will manage this or not is a different conversation entirely, but if she succeeds, this will mean even more effort is spent ignoring everything other than Brexit.
The Government petitions website shows the interest the public has in debating other issues that matter to them. On the same site where the famous petition about revoking Article 50 was born, appeals overflow with passion about varying topics seemingly swept under the rug by the media and Parliament: Brunei and their treatment of LGBT citizens, banning unsustainable food packaging, having a £15 an hour minimum wage for HGV drivers. The list goes on and on, yet honouring the “will of the people” seems to be the only thing on the agenda.
This is not saying that Brexit discussions are a waste of time; they are the exact opposite. They are essential in making sure we don’t crash out of this chaos with an uncomfortable bang. It’s the fact that these conversations were not had sooner, that the plans were not crafted with plenty of time to spare. May’s desperate reaches for yet more extensions means that there could be further months of ambiguity. While the big battle with Brussels is still being fought, the deeper rooted problems in our own communities (and the issue about the future of our planet) stay very much unsolved.