Meet The Brexit Party’s Climate Science Deniers
By Richard Collett-White and Chloe Farand and Mat Hope – DeSmogUK: It’s just over a fortnight since Nigel Farage was back in the headlines, launching his new Brexit Party to contest the upcoming European Parliament elections, in what he describes as a “democratic revolution.”
The former UKIP leader, who left his old party in December after deciding it had become too right-wing even for him, vowed he would return to frontline politics if Britain’s departure from the EU was delayed any longer.
While it might seem like a single-issue party, though, there’s something striking about the list of candidates we’ve been gradually drip-fed since its formal launch on 12 April: the sheer number who still can’t accept the science on climate change or just don’t think it’s worth the effort of doing anything about.
With the rise of the Brexit Party threatening to send a new crop of climate deniers to the European Parliament – a full list of candidates has now been published – here are some of the party’s leading figures whose views on climate change are either ill-informed, obstructive, or both.
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Farage has a history of spreading misinformation about climate science, of which DeSmog has kept track over the years. He told an interviewer in 2013: “I’m all for pollution controls but to obsess with carbon dioxide, which as I understand it, is a perfectly natural occurring phenomenon, strikes me as strange.”
Farage has also called wind energy “the biggest collective economic insanity I’ve seen in my entire life.” That would be the cheapest source of new power, along with solar, energy experts now say.
Under his watch, UKIP’s 2015 and 2017 general election manifestos pledged to rip up green measures, including a promise to repeal the UK’s Climate Change Act, withdraw from the Paris Agreement and spur on fracking.
On the day of the Brexit Party launch, Farage told BBC Radio 4 there was “no difference between the Brexit party and UKIP in terms of policy,” which gives an indication of where the Brexit Party stands on climate change.
Although she might be better known by some for her moves on Strictly Come Dancing, the socially conservative former Conservative minister also made a name for herself as one of a small band of hard-line climate science deniers in the House of Commons.
Widdecombe, who retired from Parliament in 2010, was one of only five MPs to oppose the 2008 Climate Change Act. The following year she told the Daily Express: “There is no climate change, hasn’t anybody looked out of their window recently?”
Six years after the bill passed into law, Widdecombe wrote that she was proud to have been one of the “rebels” and credits fellow Conservative Nigel Lawson, founder of the climate denial campaign group the Global Warming Policy Foundation, with convincing her. In the same article, she compared the rejection of climate science denial to book-burning in 1930s Germany.
Another skeptic of wind power, Widdecombe has called the turbines “vast, ugly, inefficient” and “bird-mashing.”
Annunziata Rees-Mogg is a headhunter, former journalist and unsuccessful parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party, having stood for the party in the 2005 and 2010 general elections. Her brother is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the “hard” Brexiteer Conservative MP and an opponent of measures to tackle climate change.
While editor of the investment magazine MoneyWeek, Annunziata Rees-Mogg wrote articles recommending how readers could best profit from the Canadian “tar sands” boom and predicted that coal was about to make a comeback to the UK.
Rees-Mogg was previously editor of the European Journal, a magazine owned by anti-EU thinktank the European Foundation, founded and chaired by Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash. The Foundation is part of a network of pro-Brexit anti-regulation organisations based out of offices in and around Tufton Street. The UK’s principal climate science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, is based at offices at 55 Tufton Street.
Continuing a long tradition of these candidates confusing the climate and the weather, Rees-Mogg once tweeted: “I’m really enjoying this global warming. Simply tropical for late April in London.”
A regular guest on BBC Radio 4’s “Moral Maze” programme, Claire Fox runs a libertarian think tank called the Institute of Ideas, rejecting government intervention even on issues like child pornography and online terror videos.
In a debate with environmental journalist George Monbiot, reported by the climate science denial blogger Ben Pile, she was asked whether she wanted people to be “free to pollute,” answering: “I want freedom.”
Fox has frequently tweeted about her denial of climate science, calling the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “advocacy research” and says treating the body as “high priests of The Science and final word on climate” would be a “betrayal of scientific inquiry.”
Fox has also tweeted supportively of Viscount Matt Ridley’s climate science denial and recommended people look to Bjorn Lomborg, who argues it would be too expensive to tackle climate change in a meaningful way.
Fox is a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and forms part of a pro-free market network based around the Spiked magazine, funded by US oil billionaires the Koch brothers, as DeSmog revealed. Alka Cuthbert, another Brexit Party candidate, is also a regular Spiked contributor.
George Farmer is the chairman of Turning Point UK (TPUK), a newly launched right-wing student organisation and an offshoot of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a staunchly pro-Trump network on American campuses.
Turning Point UK describes itself as defending free market, limited government and personal responsibility. Neither Turning Point USA nor Turning Point UK declares their funders, although founder Charlie Kirk acknowledged in an interview that some donors “are in the fossil-fuel space.”
Farmer has repeatedly attacked the recent wave of climate change protests which have gripped the Western world. Reacting to the news that 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who inspired the school climate strikes, had been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Farmer tweeted:
Donald Trump was also nominated for the award.
In another instance, he mocked the climate change protests which paralysed London last month as the work of a privileged group of young people without work whose purpose was to “to annoy people with jobs”.
TPUSA played a key role in organising opposition to student campaigns for universities to divest from fossil fuels. It also produced a video that claims NASA scientists are “wrong about climate change”, and founder Charlie Kirk has publicly supported President Trump’s assertion that he will withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement.
Farmer is also an ardent supporter of Donald Trump, tweeting “Trump is fixing America, he is truly making it great again” and suggesting President Trump should be celebrated as a “real peacemaker”.
Farmer is a former Tory party donor and the son of Lord Farmer, a billionaire who made his name through metal trading, a former Conservative treasurer and a life peer in the House of Lords. Lord Farmer is also a long-standing Tory donor.
The UK Conservative Party has advised its student associations “not to work with [TPUK] in any capacity”.
Nathan Gill is the current Brexit Party MEP for Wales, the former UKIP leader in Wales and a climate science denier.
He told BBC Wales in 2015 that climate change was not man-made and that it was “ridiculous” to think humans could change the climate. He also said it was “complete stupidity to think by sticking a bunch of wind turbines all over Wales that we are somehow going to stop the weather from changing”.
In 2018, Gill said in a statement that he would vote against the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive as:
“The European Commission continues to impose never-ending objectives for emissions reductions. EU policies oblige us to invest vast amounts of money on initiatives that will have little or no effect on climate change.”
“Brexit means that we can stop pursuing meaningless and ineffective environmental targets made in Brussels and work together with the rest of the world to protect the environment in a way which protects our energy supply and jobs,” he added.
Gill defected to the Brexit Party from UKIP in December 2018.
Michael Heaver is the co-founder of the UKIP-backed website Westmonster, which publishes Breitbart-inspired, provocative and anti-establishment blogs.
Westmonster was launched in January 2017 and was funded by Nigel Farage’s financier, billionaire Arron Banks. Heaver, who co-owns Westmonster, is Farage’s former personal press advisor.
Heaver has repeatedly expressed uncertainty about accepting mainstream views on climate change. Writing on Twitter in 2011, he said: “Climate change is an interesting one, I don’t exactly tow the line on that one. Far-left green movement worries me though.”
Westmonster hardly ever writes about climate change and environmental issues, instead focusing on the Brexit debate. However, the website has repeatedly attacked the Green Party, both in the UK and across Europe.
Blogs published on Westmonster have previously mocked links between terrorism, migration and climate change despite experts increasingly describing climate change as a threat-multiplier for such issues.
In a short blog post describing the launch of the Extinction Rebellion movement in Parliament square in October 2018, Westmonster described protesters as a “far-left mob who seem interested in maximum disruption”.
Martin Daubney served as the longest-running editor of “lads mag” Loaded, after working on the sports pages of the disgraced newspaper, News of the World. He is a regular commentator on current affairs, frequently criticising feminism.
Daubney has tweeted numerous times about climate change, claiming that: “Evolution we can prove. Unless you’re blinded by faith. Climate change cannot be proven. Unless you’re blinded by faith?”
He has also tweeted positively about a Spectator article by climate science denier Matt Ridley, which reproduces a familiar trope that carbon dioxide is simply “plant food”. He also called a piece by long-time climate science denier James Delingpole that claimed climate change was responsible for “zero” deaths globally “superb.”
Lance Forman is the owner of a luxury smoked salmon business, having previously worked as a Special Advisor to former Conservative MP Peter Lilley. Like Ann Widdecombe, Lilley voted against the UK’s Climate Change Act in 2008 and has a record of opposing climate policies and rejecting climate science.
Forman has called climate change “a myth” and responded to a tweet from Westmonster, a “pro-Brexit, pro-Farage, pro-Trump” website set up by Leave.EU founder Arron Banks: “Do you think most politicians really believe in Climate Change? Of course not, but they all say they do, or they’d be lynched.”
Forman recently tweeted: “Even the global warming brigade have stopped calling it global warming now in favour of climate change, which means anything they want it to mean.”
In December 2015, following the signing of the Paris climate agreement, Forman wrote an article in the Newham Recorder, in which he said:
“The fact is, that climate change belief or denial is no different to religion… And if there is to be climate change, why focus on the negative? The drying up of the Dead Sea in recent decades has led to a partnership by former enemies, Jordan and Israel, to create a joint project to rehydrate it. Climate change in this situation has been a force for peace and for good.”
Tufton Street Connections
As well as fielding all these climate science denier candidates, the Brexit Party is also putting up a number of individuals with strong connections to a network of pro-Brexit, anti-regulation lobbying organisations based in and around offices at 55 Tufton Street.
This shadowy network is responsible for politicians pushing for a hard or no deal Brexit that could see environmental regulations slashed.
Richard Tice is a multi-millionaire property developer and financier and the chair of the anti-EU Brexit Party. A long-standing Brexiteer, Tice is a deregulation advocate, called for a “no deal” outcome to the Brexit process, and urged the adoption of World Trade Organisation rules.
Together with businessman John Longworth, Tice co-founded Leave Means Leave, a pressure group campaigning for a hard Brexit. The organisation was previously based at 55 Tufton Street, along with numerous right-wing, free-market organisations including the UK’s principal climate science denial campaign group The Global Warming Policy Foundation.
Tice co-founded the Leave.EU campaign with Arron Banks and Nigel Farage. In May 2018, Leave.EU was given a maximum fine of £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for exceeding the statutory spending limit during the EU referendum campaign, with the group’s chief executive, Liz Bilney, being referred to the police.
Tice is the grandson of Bernard Sunley, a major property developer and opencast coal mine owner. The charitable trust Sunley set up in his name and which is now run by the family makes hundreds of donations each year, including to the controversial Countryside Alliance, which supports fox hunting, and has campaigned for the BBC presenter, Chris Packham, to be sacked.
John Longworth is the former director-general of the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC). He was suspended for breaching the group’s neutrality rules after he told the BCC’s annual conference Britain would be better off leaving the EU, and later resigned.
Longworth chairs Leave Means Leave, a campaign group set up following the EU referendum which advocates the adoption of World Trade Organisation rules. It was previously based at 55 Tufton Street and was accused by a whistle-blower of colluding with eight other organisations, including the Global Warming Policy Foundation, to push for a “hard” Brexit.
Longworth writes for Brexit Central, a news site edited by Taxpayers’ Alliance founder Matthew Elliott, and is on the advisory board of both the Institute of Economic Affairs free-market think tank and the Economists for Free Trade group, which backs a “no deal” Brexit and includes climate science deniers Jacob Rees-Mogg, Owen Paterson and Matt Ridley.
Not All Deniers
It would be unfair to say all the Brexit Party candidates oppose action on climate change, though. We’ve been able to identify one who seems to want to do something about it: James Glancy, an environmentalist and former royal marine.
Announcing his candidacy, Glancy wrote in The Sun:
“Beyond Brexit, I see an opportunity to implement the strongest animal welfare and environmental legislation in the world. It is a chance to reset our relationship with nature, away from the Common Agricultural Policy. I strongly disagree with those who want to weaken environmental policy.”
So there’s that.