Source: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid English
March 5, 2019
I was sitting in a cafe on the Falls Road in heavily nationalist West Belfast when a local radio reporter came in looking for residents to interview about the effect of Brexit on Northern Ireland. She said that the impact was already massive, adding: “Stupid, stupid English for getting us into this pickle. We were doing nicely and then they surpassed themselves [in stupidity].”
It does not take long talking to people in Northern Ireland to understand that almost everything said by politicians and commentators in London about the “backstop” is based on a dangerous degree of ignorance and wishful thinking about the real political situation on the ground here. Given how central this issue is to the future of the UK, it is extraordinary how it is debated with only minimal knowledge of the real forces involved.
The most important of these risks can be swiftly spelled out. Focus is often placed on the sheer difficulty of policing the 310-mile border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because there are at least 300 major and minor crossing points. But the real problem is not geographic or military but political and demographic because almost all the border runs through country where Catholics greatly outnumber Protestants. The Catholics will not accept, and are in a position to prevent, a hard border unless it is defended permanently by several thousand British troops in fortified positions.
The threat to peace is often seen as coming from dissident Republicans, a small and fragmented band with little support, who might shoot a policeman or a customs’ official. But this is not the greatest danger, or at least not yet, because it is much more likely that spontaneous but sustained protests would prevent any attempt to recreate an international frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic that wasn’t backed by overwhelming armed force.
It is unrealistic to the point of absurdity to imagine that technical means on the border could substitute for customs personnel because cameras and other devices would be immediately destroyed by local people. A new border would have to be manned by customs officials, but these would not go there unless they were protected by police and the police could not operate without British Army protection. Protesters would be killed or injured and we would spiral back into violence.
We are not looking at a worst-case scenario but an inevitability if a hard border returns as it will, if there is a full Brexit. The EU could never agree to a deal – and would be signing its own death warrant if it did – in which the customs union and the single market have a large unguarded hole in their tariff and regulatory walls.
An essential point to grasp is that the British government does not physically control the territory, mostly populated by nationalists, through which the border runs. It could only reassert that control by force which would mean a return to the situation during the Troubles, between 1968 and 1998, when many of the 270 public roads crossing the border were blocked by obstacles or cratered with explosives by the British Army. Even then British soldiers could only move through places like South Armagh using helicopters.
The focus for the security forces in Northern Ireland is on dissident Republican groups that never accepted the Good Friday Agreement. These have failed to gain traction inside the Roman Catholic/nationalist community which has no desire to go back to war and give up the very real advantages that it has drawn from the long peace.
But that peace could slip away without anybody wanting it to go because Brexit, as conceived by the European Research Group and as delineated by Theresa May’s red lines, is a torpedo aimed directly at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. This meant that those who saw themselves as Irish (essentially the Catholics) and those who saw themselves as British (the Protestants) could live peacefully in the same place. Moreover, the agreement established and institutionalised a complicated balance of power between the two communities in which the Irish government and the EU played a central role.
Yet ever since the general election of 2017, when May became dependent on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), it is the DUP – the party of Ian Paisley – that has been treated by politicians and media in Britain as if they were the sole representatives of the 1.9 million people living in Northern Ireland. Its MPs are seldom asked by interviewers to justify their support for the UK leaving the EU when Northern Ireland voted for Remain in the referendum by 56 per cent to 44 per cent.
In ignoring the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, the British government is committing the same costly mistake it committed in the 50 years before 1968 which led to the fiercest guerrilla conflict in western Europe since the Second World War. The nationalist community today has a lot more to lose than it did half a century ago. It is no longer subject to sectarian discrimination in the way it used to be, as well as being highly educated and economically dynamic, but this does not mean that it can be taken for granted.
It may also be that the majority of the Northern Ireland population in two years’ time, when the Brexit transition period might be coming to an end, will no longer be Protestant and unionist but Catholic and nationalist. In the last census in 2011 Protestants were 48 per cent of the population and Catholics 45 per cent. The Protestants are not only a declining proportion of the population, but an increasingly ageing one, figures from 2016 showing that Catholics are 44 per cent of the working population and Protestants 44 per cent. Significantly, Catholics make up 51 per cent of school children in Northern Ireland and Protestants only 37 per cent.
The Protestants are a community on the retreat, but many have argued that this does not make much political difference because it is a mistake to imagine that all Catholics wanted a united Ireland. Many felt that they were better off where they were with a free NHS and an annual UK subsidy of £11bn.
But Brexit has changed this calculation. With Ireland and the UK members of the EU, religious and national loyalties were blurred. Many Protestants, particularly middle class ones, voted Remain in the referendum, but the vote was still essentially along sectarian lines. “You would not find many nationalists post-Brexit who would not vote for a united Ireland in a new border poll whatever they thought before,” said one commentator, though the likelihood is that if there were to be such a poll there would still be a slim majority favouring the union with Great Britain.
If May’s deal with the EU is finally agreed by the House of Commons then the issue of a hard border will be postponed. Any return to it would put Northern Ireland back on the road to crisis and violence. Stupid, stupid, stupid English.
Maybe the EU needs a military intervention by the US, like it is planning for Venezuela?
In May’s European elections, anti-EU forces will be on the rise, says the philanthropist George Soros
In May’s European elections, anti-EU forces will be on the rise. Those who want to preserve the union’s values must wake up
Europe is sleepwalking into oblivion and its people need to wake up before it is too late. If they don’t, the European Union will go the way of the Soviet Union in 1991. Neither our leaders nor ordinary citizens seem to understand that we are experiencing a revolutionary moment, that the range of possibilities is very broad, and that the eventual outcome is thus highly uncertain.
Most of us assume the future will more or less resemble the present, but this is not necessarily so. In a long and eventful life, I have witnessed many periods of what I call radical disequilibrium. We are living in such a period today.
The next inflection point will be the elections for the European parliament, in May 2019. Unfortunately, anti-EU forces will enjoy a competitive advantage. There are several reasons for this, including the outdated party system in most European countries, the practical impossibility of treaty change and the lack of legal tools for disciplining member states that violate the principles on which the EU was founded. The EU can impose its laws on applicant countries but it lacks sufficient capacity to enforce member states’ compliance.
The antiquated party system hampers those who want to preserve the values on which the EU was founded, but it helps those who want to replace those values with something radically different. This is true in individual countries and even more so in trans-European alliances. The party system of individual states reflects the divisions that mattered in the 19th and 20th centuries, such as the conflict between capital and labour. But the cleavage that matters most today is between pro- and anti-European forces.
The EU’s dominant country is Germany, whose dominant political alliance – between the Christian Democratic Union and the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union – has become unsustainable. The alliance worked as long as there was no significant party in Bavaria to the right of the CSU. That changed with the rise of the extremist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). In last September’s länder elections, the CSU’s result was its worst in more than six decades, and the AfD entered the Bavarian parliament for the first time.
These are the ten biggest news stories going on right now that you need to know that will, in some way, affect Britain. When Brexit arrives and the consequences start to unravel, whatever they may be, the world continues to move – one threat being that Britain becomes so self-involved it gets left behind. So keep up with these brief updates as TruePublica will now start to publish more of them from now on.
Mr Putin also said that Russia would build weapons previously banned under the treaty and would no longer initiate talks with the United States on any matters related to nuclear arms control. Cold war 2.0 has clearly kicked-off. The last one was not just quite frightening, it threatened the existence of humanity.
While global markets would hail a U.S.-China trade deal, fears are growing that the European Union could be the fall guy in any breakthrough, which would allow Donald Trump to turn his attention to German cars or French luxury wines.
Alicia García-Herrero, Chief Economist at Natixis for Asia Pacific, and a researcher at the Bruegel think-tank, is among those who have warned that a deal “could cost Europe dearly” if China substitutes a large part of its European imports for U.S. goods in a bid to appease the Trump administration.
British lawmakers instructed Prime Minister Theresa May to reopen a Brexit treaty with the European Union to replace a controversial Irish border arrangement – and promptly received a flat rejection from Brussels.
With two months left until Britain is due by law to leave the EU, investors and allies have urged the government to clinch a deal to allow an orderly exit from the club it joined in 1973. So far, it has failed.
The authorities have now revived Cold War emergency plans to relocate the royal family should there be riots in London if Britain. Thousands of MI5 are now located in Northern Ireland, the Army and army reservists are on standby and police forces all over the country have cancelled all leave from April.
Did the subversion of Italian democracy by the European Union play a role in Italy’s fall into recession? Italy’s pre-existing debts were already so large that the EU got an agreement from the previous Italian government that deficit spending would be restricted to 0.8% of GDP.
The new government prepared to implement the policies it had promised in its election campaign: a reduction in taxes and an increase in certain types of welfare spending, including a basic income experiment. They proposed a fiscal plan that would increase the spending deficit to 2.4% of GDP.
The EU said no. Crash.
The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and Japan entered into force on 1 February 2019. Businesses and consumers across Europe and in Japan can now take advantage of the largest open trade zone in the world.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said:
“This agreement has it all: it scraps tariffs and contributes to the global rulebook, whilst at the same time demonstrating to the world that we both remain convinced by the benefits of open trade.
Except, of course, Britain. It opted out of the EU and so the trade deal excluded it from day one.
As tensions between China and the US mount over trade and the extradition of a senior Huawei executive, Beijing has reserved its most colourful language for America’s allies.
Analysts say China is trying to isolate the US by going after its allies. Two Canadians remain in detention in China over unspecified allegations of endangering national security and a third was sentenced to death for drug smuggling after a sudden retrial — cases widely believed to be retaliation for Ottawa’s arrest of Meng at the request of the US.
Several thousand “gilets jaunes” protesters have marched through Paris and other French cities on Saturday on the 12th weekend of action against the government.
Protesters carried French flags and held signs attacking the French president as being out of touch or calling for referendums tabled by citizens.
Protesters injured in previous weeks of violence were put at the front of the protests, some of whom wore eyepatches with a target sign on them. The government warned that police would not hesitate to use ‘flashballs’ in the event of violence by demonstrators after it was authorised by France’s highest administrative court. Flashball riot control guns are banned in much of Europe.
The information commissioner has launched an audit into Leave.EU and the insurance company owned by the campaign’s key financial backer, Arron Banks, after fining the organisations a total of £120,000 for data protection violations during the EU referendum campaign.
Leave.EU was fined £15,000 for using Eldon Insurance customers’ details unlawfully to send almost 300,000 political marketing messages, and a further £45,000 for its part in sending an Eldon marketing campaign to political subscribers. Eldon was fined £60,000 for the latter violation.
The usual mainstream media suspects have their printing presses and news presenters set to max propaganda mode over Venezuela.
The CIA is working hard to stoke violence, and the genuine poor will soon start to die, both in those egged on to riot and in the security services. But do not get taken in by the complete nonsense that this is a popular, democratic revolution. It is not. It is yet another barefaced CIA regime change coup.
Eight banks are being targeted in a European Union probe that alleges traders colluded to acquire and trade euro government bonds, a month after the EU regulators implicated lenders in a separate bond-trading case.
The EU’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, is moving her attention to possible collusion between banks in the estimated $9.4-trillion market for European government debt. She’s already extracted huge fines from Google and a massive back-tax bill from Apple Inc. before she ends her five-year term later this year. While the EU’s powerful antitrust arm often lags far behind financial authorities in the U.S. and the U.K. in punishing collusion between traders, its fines can be hefty.
Featured image is from TruePublica
In the economically challenging times for post-Brexit Britain, the British state is resorting to militarism as in the days of its Victorian empire.
Britain is dispatching some 1,000 marines to join NATO war exercises off Norway in “a show of strength to Russia”. The move is but one of several military muscles being flexed by Britain in a bid to boost its international standing. Russia is designated as the convenient villain to justify Britain’s renewed militarism.
To lend the madness some popular appeal, British media reported that “Prince Harry will join one of Britain’s biggest war exercises against Russia in 20 years, as a warning to Vladimir Putin over his continued aggression.”
Harry (34), the youngest son of heir to the British crown, Prince Charles, is said to be privy to secret battle plans taking place in Norway over the next 12 weeks “as the marines practice drills in a show of strength against potential military strikes by Moscow.”
Russia’s embassy in Britain dismissed the exercise involving the young royal as a PR gimmick to fire up public enthusiasm for what is otherwise a hackneyed ploy of provoking tensions with Moscow. “Apparently, the authority of politicians and generals is no longer enough to ensure public support for this policy,” it said.
Indeed, a PR stunt is surely what it is going on. And the British media are showing themselves once again to be the disgraceful pro-war stenographers that they are by churning out official assertions of “Russian aggression” and “potential military strikes”.
But what’s also going on here is a wider and more disturbing pattern of Britain increasing its militarism towards Russia. Not that Russia is quaking in its boots over Britain’s threatening conduct, but the reckless snarling attitude of the British bulldog nevertheless adds to increasing international tensions between NATO powers and Moscow. That implies an increasing risk of a military confrontation.
A significant factor here is Britain’s intensifying Brexit chaos as it splits from the European Union. The deadline for the EU divorce comes on March 29 when Britain is set to leave the bloc after more than four decades of membership. If Britain crashes out of the EU without a trade deal, which looks increasingly likely due to internal British political squabbling, then economic and social chaos is expected.
Given the high stakes, it seems that the British establishment is seeking to distract from the Brexit debacle through ramping up tensions with Russia.
As a recent Washington Post article put it: “Britain clings to imperial nostalgia as Brexit looms”.
Britain’s Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson has been a key figure in fingering Russia as a “threat to Europe” and positioning Britain as a “defender of Europe against Russian aggression”.
There are, it seems, a few calculations in the works. One of those is that Britain has been continually trying to make itself relevant to Europe in a post-Brexit era owing to supposed British security and military assets. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly talked up how Britain will always remain an important security partner to European allies even after it quits the bloc.
When her defense minister Gavin Williamson first announced the new deployment of British forces to the Arctic back in September, he said it was to “protect Europe’s northern flank” from “increased Russian aggression”. Thus, by ingratiating itself as a “protector” of Europe, the British state is endeavoring to use that purported role as a bargaining chip in order to extract more concessions from the EU on the terms of a future trade arrangement.
Premier May this week is pleading with EU leaders to relent on improving divorce terms. It is therefore important for the British to amplify their “security role” for Europe in order to try to wheedle better divorce terms. The corollary of that cynical calculation is for the British to demonize Russia further as a threat to Europe, thereby giving the British a seemingly valuable purpose of “defender”.
No doubt the recently exposed British government-funded media network, the Orwellian-sounding Integrity Initiative, has been working overtime in propagating the anti-Russia narratives as part of the Brexit strategy.
Another calculation is that as Britain leaves the European Union, it is prone to take on a greater role in the US-led NATO military alliance. Post-Brexit Britain will inevitably have much less influence on European capitals. As America’s historical cipher in European affairs, Washington and London will need to boost the role of NATO as a way to exert more influence over European policy. This would explain why Britain has over the past two years since the Brexit referendum in June 2016 taken on a more aggressive attitude towards Russia. Realizing that the bulldog will be outside the European gate, Britain seems to have upped its NATO role, by barking more at Russia.
More generally, the Brexit process has unleashed British notions of former imperial glory being revived.
Williamson told the rightwing Sunday Telegraph recently: “This is our biggest moment as a nation since the end of the Second World War, when we can recast ourselves in a different way. We can actually play the role on the world stage that the world expects us to play.”
Increased militarism is a crucial part of this British role-play on the world stage. Britain has greatly boosted its sales pitch for weapons exports since the Brexit referendum, wooing the Saudi and other Gulf Arab regimes in particular. It is planning to build, or has recently built, new military bases in former colonial territories in the Persian Gulf, Caribbean and Southeast Asia.
Britain’s launching of two new “super aircraft carriers” is specifically aimed at working with US naval counterparts and the American F-35 fighter plane. As the BBC reported, the new “gunboat diplomacy on steroids” is for the British rulers a “statement of intent and global ambition as well as a very visible projection of military power.”
In the economically challenging times for post-Brexit Britain, the British state is resorting to militarism as in the days of its Victorian empire. That militarism is seen as essential by the British state as a way to give itself badly needed relevance and influence over international relations. Especially because post-imperial, post-Brexit Britain is a shadow of its former self.
However, from Russia’s perspective, this desperate British nostalgia is potentially baleful. Britain is evidently using Russia as a pretext to justify its new militarism and to burnish a supposed role of “defender”. As the Brexit repercussions become ever-more severe for Britain, the danger is that the British bulldog snarling at Russia may become rabid. It needs to be muzzled before someone gets hurt. Or better still, put down.
The dogma of neoliberalism and brutal imperialism espoused by the foreign-policy establishment is at the heart of the problems between the US and the rest of the world.
We are witnessing the withdrawal from Syria of the American military contingent, protests in France, the prospect of a British hard Brexit, the political decline of Angela Merkel in Germany, Netanyahu in crisis, and Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia suddenly becoming an international pariah. The contemporary crisis of leadership in Europe, the United States and among their main allies has thrown the West into chaos, leading it to one of its most critical junctures in recent decades. It is a situation brought on by the United States and its contradictory politics, which results in diminishing the sovereignty and decision-making power of Washington’s allies.
Well before the election of Donald Trump, European Union leaders Merkel, Cameron and Hollande were already faltering and evidencing signs of failure.
Hollande fell in the polls because of policies favoring the interests of the elites at the expense of the increasingly poor and indebted French population. Cameron, to stave off a Labour victory under Jeremy Corbyn, promised a vote on Brexit, a decision that would eventually end up costing him his political career. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, the undisputed master of the German political scene, suffered for the first time in fifteen years heavy electoral defeats stemming from recent migration policies. The Chancellor, harshly criticized for these results, resigned from the position of president of the party, leaving the CDU split into two factions. The situation worsened in the UK and France over the next twelve months, with Cameron resigning following the Brexit vote and Hollande forced to give up on the the idea of running for reelection given his unpopularity.
Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron then replaced Cameron and Hollande. Macron immediately committed to revolutionizing French politics, promising a French renaissance. May (with a view to sabotaging it) promised to negotiate vigorously with the EU to obtain the best possible conditions for the UK’s Brexit, scheduled for March 2019. Both have acted contrary to their promises, sealing their political fates.
Meanwhile in the United States there has been strong jostling between the political-financial-war elites for the dominance of Trump’s foreign policy. The President, either out of inexperience, ineptitude or intentionally, soon succumbed to the foreign-policy establishment, with its usual offerings of neoliberalism and brutal imperialism. Trump’s weaponized use of the dollar thereby ended up in an unintended blue-on-blue attack, with Trump’s money bags, Saudi Arabia and Israel, receiving some friendly fire in addition to the intended targets, Iran, Russia and China. An understanding between Trump and the foreign-policy establishment has therefore been reached, sealed with the appointments of Bolton and Pompeo, establishing a modus vivendi between competing interests.
This dogma of neoliberalism and brutal imperialism espoused by the foreign-policy establishment is at the heart of the problems between the United States and the rest of the world, Europe especially, only serving to accelerate the transition to a multipolar world order, about which I wrote the day after Trump’s victory. Neoliberalism and American exceptionalism are now entrenched in an “America First” policy, combining the worst elements of US imperialism and the interests of the financier oligarchy.
Washington’s adoption of aggressive economic policies, aimed at draining resources from allies while simultaneously isolating its enemies, has further accentuated the differences between Europe and the US. The use of tariffs and customs duties, combined with sanctions against Moscow and Tehran, have ended up distancing Macron from Trump, placing the French president firmly in the liberal-globalist camp, standing shoulder to shoulder with Merkel. May is isolated, criticized by virtually everyone — Brussels, Trump, Merkel — and especially by Corbyn in Parliament.
May finds herself managing a situation beyond her, with a total failure of the British negotiating position with the EU. The closer we get to March 29, the more the British media like the BBC will holler about the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit, the prospect of which is very likely given that May has done everything possible to sabotage the negotiation process with the EU. The aim is to convince the population that it is not only legitimate but above all else necessary to revoke the request for implementation of Article 50 of the EU in order to avoid the catastrophe of a hard Brexit. It is a perfect example of how the elite create a problem (intentionally failing the negotiations for Brexit) to justify acting in a certain direction, contrary to what the population has voted for.
Macron, in addition to a repeated series of internal political disasters, further demonstrated his abiding fidelity to the financier globalist elites by conceiving a new tax on petrol in the interests of greater environmental sustainability, a heedless provocation to the French people, already weighed down by taxes and an incommensurate lack of government services. This move was enough to unleash major protests in France, the biggest in over twenty years, which will not stop until the resignation of the puppet Macron.
In Germany, Angela Merkel’s migrant policies over the last few years have ended up consuming her credit in terms of popularity. She was recently replaced by her protégé, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, as head of the CDU. Merkel has already affirmed that she will withdraw from political life at the end of her term as chancellor. With Merkel as with May and Macron, dancing to the tune of the globalist elites ends up being politically costly.
What has fueled the erosion of the political consensus amongst European leaders has much to do with their countries bearing the costs of being mere executors of US interests. The ripping up of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran created significant frictions between Washington and EU countries. The sanctions on Russia, the tariffs on the European countries and the trade war with Beijing have done the rest, pushing Macron, and even May, to positions directly in opposition to Donald Trump, the latter increasingly attempting a rapprochement with Angela Merkel as her position progressively worsens. May, Macron and Merkel are hanging on by a thinning thread. The attempt to divert attention to other countries like Russia, in the case of the British (the Skripal affair), or Syria, in the case of the French (bombing the country), only widens the rift between Europeans and the likes of Russia and Iran, hurting EU companies and workers in the process.
The risk is that the precarious situation in which European leaders find themselves could lead them into an open provocation against Iran or Russia in Syria (a false-flag chemical attack in Idlib?) or in Ukraine (a false-flag attack in Mariupol?). This is a very real danger. The elites in Kiev seem to be willing to offer their country as a staging area from which to launch a final provocation against Moscow. Yet neither Merkel, May nor Macron seem to be particularly attracted to the prospect of turning Europe into a pile of rubble just to please the Euro-American financial and military elites. Besides, none of them (fortunately) has the political capital that would allow them to engage in such demented moves.
In this generalized chaos characterizing the West, Trump has perhaps made the first sensible move of his presidency in announcing the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, in the face of howls of protests from the globalist imperialists. Washington is being ushered out of the Middle East as a result of its repeated failures. Moscow is the new destination for all negotiations concerning the Middle East and beyond. Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar and Turkey seem to have already got the message, with various levels of negotiations launched directly or indirectly with Moscow to salvage the little influence still held in Syria by Doha, Tel Aviv and Riyadh. The case is a little different with Ankara, which, through Idlib, still maintains some influence in Syria.
Meanwhile, the US Congress has voted to condemn Saudi actions in Yemen and withdraw US support for Riyadh’s war effort. This is motivated less by a concern for the plight of Yemeni civilians, suffering under the onslaught of American-supplied bombs, than it is by the desire by the deep state to further lay into Trump by undermining his ally Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who has been pronounced anathema by the Euro-American political and financial elites.
In Israel, Netanyahu finds himself in tricky situation, with his wife being investigated for corruption and his majority in government becoming increasingly precarious. Israel’s recent capitulation in Gaza, that precipitated the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, together with the recent incident with the Russians in Syria as well as the unrealistic prospect of a war with Hezbollah, has reduced Bibi to a joke within Israel. His time is almost up.
As if the situation for Western leaders were not compromised enough, their few joint actions are decided in Washington and aimed at antagonizing China, Russia and Iran. After 24 months of the Trump presidency, European countries have ended up giving up even whatever little semblance of autonomy and sovereignty they retained. Trump demands absolute loyalty, without giving anything in return.
Blind obedience to a neoliberal globalist ideology, combined with Trump’s damage to friends and enemies alike, has led to European leaders and Middle Eastern allies finding themselves in a precarious situation that risks throwing Europe into chaos in the coming years or even months, with a financial debt crisis also looming more than ever.
Macron, May, Merkel, Netanyahu and MBS will continue to offer resistance and try to hang on; but the writing is evidently on the wall.
We close, ironically by throwing back at the Western imperialists, like a boomerang, the mantra that they frequently levelled at the likes of Bashar al Assad: May, Merkel, Macron, MBS and Netanyahu must go!
British Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly urged that the “national interest” is at stake over her Brexit plan. She is calling for businesses and politicians to rally around safeguarding ordinary people’s jobs and livelihoods – and to back her draft divorce deal with the European Union. A parliamentary vote is due in the coming weeks.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly urged that the “national interest” is at stake over her Brexit plan. She is calling for businesses and politicians to rally around safeguarding ordinary people’s jobs and livelihoods – and to back her draft divorce deal with the European Union. A parliamentary vote is due in the coming weeks.
However, the timing of a shocking report on British poverty by the United Nations makes May’s appeals rather hollow, and it sounds an alarm about the dire direction the country is headed.
Professor Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur, spent two weeks visiting diverse communities across Britain, and his report on growing poverty makes a damning case against the economic policies of present and past Conservative governments.
One-fifth of the British population — or 14 million people — are living in poverty, according to the UN report. The miserable social conditions for communities has become particularly worse since 2010 under two successive Conservative governments.What’s more, the report concludes that poverty in Britain is likely to become even more acute and widespread following the country’s departure from the European Union. While the deadline for divorce is at the end of March next year — only four months away — Britain is facing years of economic uncertainty in its transition out of the bloc, during which period the impact will be hardest on low-income people, according to the UN study.
Another factor is that Britain will no longer receive social development funds from the EU which had helped mitigate deprivation in many marginalized communities. Those who advocate for Brexit often complain that British taxpayers’ money is funneled to Brussels as part of its membership of the bloc. They claim that after Britain quits the EU, then these funds will be available for spending on British public services.
Such logic is questionable in light of the UN poverty report. Prof Alston’s investigation found that social deprivation in Britain has been compounded by “mean-spirited” and “callous” government policies which have prioritized economic austerity cutbacks over public welfare.
So, if successive British governments have not shown much care towards poor people over the past eight years, out of a dubious ideological conviction, then why would they suddenly adopt a caring attitude in a post-Brexit period?
Much more realistic is the expectation that as Britain undergoes wrenching changes to its economy over Brexit, the callous attitude of the political establishment will ensure that the disadvantaged become even more disadvantaged in order to pay for the costs of transition.
Admittedly, if a Labour government were to come to power in the next few years, then social policies could be more humane and progressive to improve the conditions for ordinary workers and their families, the unemployed, pensioners and those requiring long-term health care. But that’s speculative. It might not happen.
What we can say for now is that the present government under Theresa May is making an insulting appeal that her Brexit plan is in the national interest. Whatever about the consequences for the rich elite, May’s Brexit plan is certainly not in the interest of low-income Britons and the burgeoning ranks of the poor.
It is true that many working-class Britons voted for Brexit in the June 2016 referendum. But did they envisage what the consequences would entail? They were also sold a lot of false promises by the likes of Boris Johnson and other British toffs who fantasize about rejuvenating Rule Britannia Empire.READ MORE: Millionaire Hammond Delivers Nothing But Spin — The Rich Are Protected Again
The UN report notes that Britain is the fifth richest economy in the world. Yet it has one of the highest rates of poverty among so-called developed nations. That’s dysfunctional capitalism for you.
Since Conservative governments embarked on an ironclad policy of economic austerity, over the past eight years some £39 billion ($50 billion) has been axed from public welfare and services. Those cuts have directly impacted communities and social conditions turning cities, towns, villages and housing estates into depressed zones of blighted lives for millions of people. The UN report found record numbers of Britons subsisting by going to food banks and other charitable centers in order to get their next meal. That is even the case for people who have jobs, such is the rampant poverty-in-work culture across Britain.
Record numbers of people are living rough on the streets. Some have resorted to prostitution just to buy food. Or joined criminal gangs as a way to survive. Charles Dickens would have lots to write about if he were still alive.
A damning figure is this: the $50 billion that Conservative governments have cut in public spending over eight years is comparable to what Britain spends every year on its military budget.
The only way that Brexit would be in the national interest is if the country somehow acquires a government that is truly democratic and committed to social justice. A government that is courageous and willing to challenge the abysmal gap between rich and poor, to embark on social and economic policies that prioritize the needs of workers and ordinary people, not the rich elite.
The record of the British establishment shows that it has negligible concern for the working people of Britain, and is only dedicated to enriching the oligarchy and fueling its war machine for aggression against foreign “enemies” like Russia.
Under prevailing British politics, one thing is sure. Brexit means Brokexit — more hardship and poverty for the people of Britain.
The views and opinions expressed by the contributor do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.