Reprieve and MPs Dan Jarvis and David Davis Challenge Government’s Refusal to Launch Official Inquiry Into British Complicity in Torture

Protestor – and US veteran – Bob Meddaugh with a powerful universal message at a protest vigil in Des Moines, Iowa, in December 2010 (Photo: Justin Norman).

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Last week, largely lost in the Brexit fog that engulfs almost all other political activity in the UK these days, the NGO Reprieve, and two principled MPs — Labour’s Dan Jarvis and the Conservative David Davis — launched a legal challenge against the government in connection with a recent ministerial decision to “abandon a promise to hold a judge-led inquiry into torture and rendition involving British intelligence agencies after 9/11,” as the Guardian described it.

Jarvis, Davis and Reprieve have submitted an application for a judicial review in the High Court as the latest step in a decade-long struggle to secure transparency about the UK’s involvement in the Bush administration’s CIA-led program of rendition and torture.

Back in July 2010, shortly after taking office in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, David Cameron — pushed by the foreign secretary William Hague — announced a judge-led inquiry, as I reported here, telling the House of Commons that he had asked Sir Peter Gibson, a retired judge, to “look at whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees held by other countries that may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11,” and noting that, although there was no evidence that any British officer was “directly engaged in torture,” there were “questions over the degree to which British officers were working with foreign security services who were treating detainees in ways they should not have done.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Brexit: Inspiring New Polling Analysis Shows Majority of Constituencies Now Support Remaining in the EU

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There was some rare good news in the Observer on Sunday, when, two years and two months since 37.47% of the eligible electorate voted to leave the EU (17.4m people, compared to the 16.1m who voted to remain), the impossibility of this proposal, and the realisation that the government tasked with implementing it is spectacularly, almost inconceivably incompetent, has finally led to a situation in which support has swung back significantly for staying in the EU. 

Just to be clear before I proceed with explaining why this is good news, I’m no enthusiast for the EU’s neo-liberal tendencies, or for the way the Euro project was used to strangle Greece, but pragmatically we are tied to the EU through 43 years of laws and treaties, and our economic health depends on our involvement in the single market and the customs union, which allow the frictionless trade with the EU that makes up by far and away our biggest trading market. In addition, the free movement of people across the EU is, in general, a positive development, and not the righteous target of the misplaced fears of those with a tendency to insularity, racism and xenophobia. We are all nations of immigrants, and immigrants have an overwhelming tendency to assimilate.  

Focaldata's analysis of the constituency shift from Leave to Remain since the EU referendum in June 2016 (via the Observer).The Observer’s headline that encouraged a surge of optimism on my part, and on the part of so many other Remain voters, was “More than 100 seats that backed Brexit now want to remain in EU”, and its tagline explained, “Major new analysis shows most constituencies now have majority who want to Remain.” Further spelling out the change, the text of the article confirmed the study’s conclusion that “most seats in Britain now contain a majority of voters who want to stay in the EU.”

The research was undertaken by the Focaldata, a consumer analytics company, which “compiled the breakdown by modelling two YouGov polls of more than 15,000 people in total, conducted before and after Theresa May published her proposed Brexit deal on 6 July”, itself an unworkable “soft Brexit” proposal, which nevertheless enraged the evangelical Brexiteers on the right of the Tory Party, whose arrogance and capacity for self-delusion apparently knows no bounds. Read the rest of this entry »

As Brexit Talks Begin, It’s Clear That We’re Doomed Unless We Ditch the Tories

Brexit alphabet: a photo from the Unite For Europe march and rally in London on March 25, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.





 

What an embarrassing and disgraceful position we find ourselves in, as the deluded representatives of an illegitimate government (the shambles that is the minority Tory government headed by “dead woman walking” Theresa May) begin official negotiations for our departure from the EU, following last year’s EU referendum, when a slim majority of those who could be bothered to vote, in a referendum whose outcome was not legally binding, and that didn’t meet the threshold for referendums on issues of major constitutional change, voted for us to leave the EU.

Crucially, the referendum failed to ask voters what they felt about how we should leave the EU and what damage to our economy was acceptable. Can we, for example, stop free movement, as voters seemed to indicate they wanted? Is it feasible, and if it is, would it be damaging to the economy? (the answer to the latter question is a resounding yes). What about the role of the free market and the customs union? Largely ignored in the Leave campaign’s lies, but explained here by the Economist, both are an essential part of our trade with the EU, which is our main market — not just in goods, but in people, services and ideas — and leaving either will almost certainly damage our economy significantly. Is that worthwhile for some spurious notion of regaining “sovereignty,” which in reality, is nothing more than the anguished, meaningless cry of backwards-looking isolationisists?

As Ian Dunt, author of the very necessary Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? explained in his column for Politics.co.uk on Thursday, aptly entitled, ‘Brexit talks start on Monday and we have no idea what we’re doing,’ the start of negotiations has once more brought the suicidial pointlessness of Brexit into sharp relief. “We are now about to go into the most challenging negotiations since the Second World War,” Dunt wrote, “with no government, no overall aim, no plan to achieve it, no functioning department to deliver it, no confidence at home or abroad with which to pass it, no trade expert capacity to negotiate it, and no time to manage it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Unite for Europe: Join the National Demo in London on March 25 to Tell Theresa May That 16 Million Of Us Don’t Accept Her “Hard Brexit” Insanity

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This coming Saturday, I hope to see as many of my British friends and readers as possible on the Unite for Europe march in London, the last protest before Theresa May triggers Article 50 (as she has just announced she will, on March 29), starting the two-year process of the UK leaving the EU. The Facebook page is here, and the Twitter page is here.

Unite for Europe is an umbrella group of Remain campaigners, and the march begins at 11am outside the Hilton on Park Lane, with campaigners taking the message of the 16.1 million ignored British Remain voters to Parliament, to let Theresa May know, as forcefully as possible, that her plans for a “hard Brexit” are completely unacceptable, as is her evident contempt for those of us who voted to remain in the EU, who have been shamefully sidelined and silenced since last June’s referendum.

Just to be clear, I will be doing whatever I can, over the next two years, to stop Britain leaving the EU, as I am convinced that it will, otherwise, be the single biggest act of economic suicide committed by any country in my lifetime — as anyone not blinded by patriotic wishful thinking can ascertain by reading Ian Dunt’s excellent book, Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? or his more recent article, Everything you need to know about Theresa May’s Article 50 nightmare in five minutes. Read the rest of this entry »

Worthless MPs Refuse to Challenge Tyrannical Theresa May on Their Own Right to Vote on Final Brexit Deal or on the Rights of EU Nationals in the UK

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Another day, another thoroughly depressing example of why, in the post-EU referendum era, the House of Commons seems intent on proving that it no longer has any worth.

In the last two weeks, peers in the House of Lords have voted for two important amendments to the government’s brief bill to allow Theresa May to trigger Article 50, beginning the two-year process of the UK leaving the EU — the first defending the right of the 3.3m EU nationals living and working in the UK to stay here, as I wrote about in my article, House of Lords Defends Right of EU Nationals to Stay in the UK Post-Brexit, as the Tyrant Theresa May Vows to Overturn Amendment, and the second guaranteeing MPs a final vote on the final Brexit deal in 2019, as I wrote about in my article, On Brexit, the House of Lords Do What MPs Wouldn’t Do, and Pass An Amendment Guaranteeing Them A Final, Meaningful Vote on Any Deal to Leave the EU.

Last night, however, MPs voted to drop those amendments, and the House of Lords then complied, paving the way for Theresa May to trigger Article 50 by the end of the month. Read the rest of this entry »

On Brexit, MPs Give Away Sovereignty, Vote to Allow Theresa May to Do Whatever She Wants

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What a disgrace the majority of MPs have shown themselves to be, as they have voted, by 494 votes to 122, to pass the government’s derisory little bill allowing Theresa May to “notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.”

Although numerous amendments were tabled — seven by Labour, others by other parties — all failed to be passed. On Tuesday, an amendment by Labour’s Chris Leslie, stating that “the government should not be allowed to agree a Brexit deal until it has been passed by both Houses of Parliament,” was defeated by 326 votes to 293 — a majority of 33 — including seven Tory rebels: as well as serial Brexit rebel Ken Clarke, the rebels were Heidi Allen, Bob Neill, Claire Perry, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Andrew Tyrie.

And last night, before the final vote, there was another blow — this one not to the hard-won sovereignty of Parliament, given away by MPs as though it was nothing, but to the three million EU nationals who live and work in the UK, when the amendment by Labour’s Harriet Harman, in her capacity as the chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, guaranteeing EU nationals the right to stay in the UK, was defeated by 332 votes to 290 — a majority of 42. On this amendment, there were three Tory rebels — Ken Clarke, Tania Mathias and Andrew Tyrie. Read the rest of this entry »

On Brexit, What a Pathetic, Leaderless Country We Have Become

A Brexit illustration for the Guardian by Nate Kitch.Please support my work as a freelance investigative journalist and commentator.

 

In America and around the world, the apocalyptic nightmare of Donald Trump and his administration is provoking widespread protest. In the UK, meanwhile, as deluded nationalists led by the Prime Minister Theresa May forge ahead with pushing for our departure from the EU as a result of last June’s narrow victory for the Leave campaign in an advisory referendum in which 27.9% of the electorate couldn’t even be bothered to vote, almost no one is standing up for the 16.1 million people — myself included — who voted for Remain.

It is as if, at a general election, the party that wins gets the right to prevent the opposition from criticising them at all, and also gets to completely ignore everything that those who voted for the opposition believes, when it contradicts what the winning party thinks.

How is this possible? The wretched referendum, whose outcome was not legally binding, was so blunt and inadequate a tool that it failed to specify what leaving the EU would entail, or, indeed, whether that would be acceptable to voters. And yet, under Theresa May and her three Brexiteers — David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox — no questions about the form Brexit might take — let alone whether it might not be a good idea to accept the result of an advisory referendum that might end up being economically suicidal — was allowed. Read the rest of this entry »

YES! The Supreme Court Tells Would-Be Tyrant Theresa May That Act of Parliament is Required to Trigger Article 50 and Leave EU; Now MPs Must Fight to Scrap Brexit

Stop Brexit: a placard from the March for Europe in London on September 3, 2016 (Photo: AFP).Please support my work as a freelance investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Great news from the grown-ups in the room today — the Supreme Court — as the highest judges in the land have confirmed what the High Court ruled nearly three months ago: that the government cannot trigger Article 50 — the mechanism for leaving the EU — without an authorising act of parliament, as Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court, stated in a summary of the court’s decision, delivered by a majority of 8-3.

As the Guardian described it, Lord Neuberger “said the government generally has a prerogative power to change treaties, but it cannot do that if it will affect people’s rights.” As the summary of the court’s ruling stated, “The change in the law required to implement the referendum’s outcome must be made in the only way permitted by the UK constitution, namely by legislation.”

The judges added, “The Supreme Court holds that an Act of Parliament is required to authorise ministers to give notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the European Union.” See the full ruling here.

From the beginning, when Theresa May was the only minister left standing after the bloodbath that followed the EU referendum’s outcome, it was outrageous that a decision that was supposed to be about the importance of restoring sovereignty to the UK was hijacked when May, who had nominally been a Remain supporter, instead revealed herself as a would-be tyrant who was intent on ignoring the fact that sovereignty in the UK resides with Parliament and not with the Prime Minister or her cabinet. Read the rest of this entry »

YES! Judges Tell Lawless Tory Government That UK Cannot Leave EU Without Parliamentary Approval

A BBC graphic from June showing how three-quarters of MPs support staying in the EU.

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Great, great, great news from the High Court, as three of the most senior judges in the UK — the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Sir Terence Etherton, the Master of the Rolls, and Lord Justice Sales — have ruled that “Parliament alone has the power to trigger Brexit by notifying Brussels of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union,” as the Guardian reported it, adding that the ruling was “likely to slow the pace of Britain’s departure from the EU and is a huge setback for Theresa May, who had insisted the government alone would decide when to trigger the process.”

Despite Theresa May’s wishful thinking, the Lord Chief Justice reminded her — and her ministers — that “the most fundamental rule of the UK constitution is that Parliament is sovereign,” something that those us with better knowledge of British democracy than our most senior ministers have been pointing out for the last four months.

Lord Thomas said, specifically, “The court does not accept the argument put forward by the government. There is nothing in the 1972 European Communities Act to support it. In the judgment of the court, the argument is contrary both to the language used by parliament in the 1972 act, and to the fundamental principles of the sovereignty of parliament and the absence of any entitlement on the part of the crown to change domestic law by the exercise of its prerogative powers.” Read the rest of this entry »

Britain’s Ongoing Brexit Woes: Nero Had Nothing on Deluded Theresa May and Her Inadequate Ministers

Theresa May flanked by police - a fitting image for the fundamental lack of openness and trust exhibited by our unelected leader.Nearly four months on from the EU referendum, and Britain is in meltdown — and yet the Tory government and its unelected leader, Theresa May, continue to behave as though nothing is wrong, while what springs to my mind is the Emperor Nero, fiddling while Rome burned.

You can see how delusional the Tory leadership’s state of mind is from a few facts from last week: the pound slumping in value to a 168-year low, and the Treasury — yes, the economic heart of the government itself — pointing out that “Britain will lose up to £66 billion a year if it pursues the so-called ‘hard Brexit’ option of leaving the single market and EU customs union,” as the Independent described it, adding, “Government figures suggest the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) could fall by as much as 9.5 per cent if it leaves the EU and reverts to World Trade Organisation rules.”

I examined the folly of the “hard Brexit” option — and the alarming racism evident at the Conservative Party conference — in an article last week, Theresa May and the Conservative Party’s Alarming White Fascist Aspirations. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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