Basketcase Britain: Two Years After the EU Referendum, the Tories Are Still Clueless and Racism Is Still Rampant

An apocalyptic view of London (image via Reddit).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Exactly two years ago, Britain went to the polls for what turned out to be one of the most depressing days, politically, in my entire life, as a small majority (51.89%) of the 72.21% of the population who could be bothered to vote expressed their desire to leave the EU.

The referendum was merely advisory; in other words, it was not legally binding, but the government never acknowledged this. In fact, referendums involving major constitutional change generally require at least a two-thirds majority, but the Tories ignored that as well.

David Cameron, who had called the referendum to placate UKIP and the far right of his own party, and had mistakenly thought it would be an easy win, walked off unscathed into the sunset, and after a short bloodbath the hapless Theresa May — who had spent six years as a horribly racist Home Secretary — was apparently the only senior minister left standing who could take over.

And because “the will of the people” apparently had to be respected, May has, ever since, been at the head of a cabinet that, essentially, represents the success of the kind of isolationist lunatics that even Margaret Thatcher recognized as needing to be kept firmly locked in a box throughout her premiership.

Out of his depth, David Davis heads the government’s Brexiteers, along with the vile Liam Fox, and the totally unprincipled Boris Johnson, whose cheerleading for leaving the EU played a major part in the Leave campaign’s success, even though Boris didn’t mean it, and was only going along with it as he jockeyed for position.

Weirdo Michael Gove is back too, and bizarrely even medieval throwbacks like arch-Leaver Jacob Rees-Mogg are getting serious media coverage the days — as part of the mainstream media’s extraordinary failure to question the Brexit narrative properly. Back in 2015-16, they behaved as though Nigel Farage was the King of England, or the Prime Minister, when he was the head of a party with, at most, one MP, and now the media fawn over the ridiculous figure of Rees-Mogg.

After the result, like so many liberal Remainers, I was actually quite depressed, as my articles from the time show; from the day after, UK Votes to Leave the EU: A Triumph of Racism and Massively Counter-Productive Political Vandalism, and, from June 26, 2016, Life in the UK After the EU Referendum: Waking Up Repeatedly at a Funeral That Never Ends.

I then followed the twists and turns as Parliament, generally in a depressingly feeble manner, made noises about needing the right to meaningfully participate in the Brexit process — which Brexiteers hated, even though the whole point of Brexit was to wrest back the illusory control that the EU had to restore British sovereignty, which, in the UK, resides with Parliament, and not with whichever clown is installed in 10 Downing Street.

But this is all just part of the Brexit madness that has existed for the last two years. When a legal challenge was mounted, the pro-Brexit tabloids — in particular, the Daily Mail under the execrable Paul Dacre, and the Sun under non-Brit Rupert Murdoch — accused High Court and Supreme Court judges of being traitors, and they continue to do the same every time MPs or the House of Lords do anything to rock their ludicrous fantasies about Brexit.

Leaving the EU, contrary to the Brexiteers’ blunt obsession with pretending that it’s as simple as shutting a door, is to undo 45 years of laws and treaties that have created an incredibly complex system tying us to our European neighbours — facilitating the seamless trade with the EU that constitutes 60% of our business, a fact that ought to provide a compelling reason for not allowing Brexit to proceed.

My analogy is that Brexit is like chopping a body in half, but then having only a few minutes for the surgery required to prevent the body from dying — an impossible task, but in our new fantasy Britain, the Brexiteers will be denying that we’re bleeding to death until they draw their final breath.

Brexiteers, meanwhile, have no answers to Remainers’ thoroughly valid sense of alarm, relying on simple-minded platitudes that fail to bear up under even the most minimal scrutiny. To be honest, I have found the whole topic so depressing that I have largely given up on it over the last year, although I always keep an eye out for the crucial analysis of Ian Dunt of politics.co.uk, whose book Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? is required reading — and also includes some serious analysis of the elephant in the room that the Tories simply don’t want to properly acknowledge: that there is an intractable Irish border problem that can’t be wished away, and that may either cause a resurgence of war in Ireland (generally referred to quaintly as ‘the Troubles’) or the break-up of the Union (which is supposed to be absolutely central to the Tories’ political philosophy), with, no doubt, Scotland following if Brexit goes ahead. Such is the Brexit madness, however, that last week, when polled on this, a majority of die-hard Brexiteers said they’d be happy to lose Northern Ireland to preserve their Brexit fantasy.

Another baleful effect of the Brexit vote, which I must note, before I reflect on where we are now and what the future might bring, is that racism is noticeably on the rise in Brexit Britain. Whenever I have met an EU national in the last two years, I have apologised for the change in their treatment over the last two years, asking about, and always receiving confirmation that, since the referendum, they have been subjected to abuse, and being told to “go home”, that simply didn’t happen before. The cat is out of the bag, and what vicious, mangy creature it is.

So where are we now? Today, I’m glad to note, an estimated 100,000 people marched in central London to demand a second referendum. I wasn’t able to make it, as I had an important housing campaign meeting in Lewisham, but I also couldn’t quite face yet another incredibly polite pro-EU march, as I’ve been on many in the last two years, and I don’t think politeness is really working. I was, however, pleased to note that the Observer reported the following:

With more businesses poised to issue dire Brexit warnings this week and senior Tories already drawing up plans to soften Theresa May’s exit proposals, organisers of the march on Sunday said it showed Britain’s departure from the European Union was not a “done deal”.

A former aide to Margaret Thatcher, several Labour MPs and pro-EU campaigners from across Britain took part in the demonstration, marking two years since the Brexit vote. Organisers said that people from every region and walk of life were among those who took part in the march down Whitehall.

Conservative supporters marched alongside Labour voters and Liberal Democrats during the protest, which saw angry denunciations of the chaos that has ensued inside government since the Brexit vote. Labour’s leadership also came under pressure at the march for refusing to back a second public vote. There were chants of “Where’s Jeremy Corbyn” from the crowd. The Labour leader was on a visit to a Palestinian refugee camp.

The Observer added:

Anger on the streets at the prime minister’s handling of the Brexit negotiations is being accompanied by a renewed push from industry to ensure that trade with Europe is not disrupted as a result of leaving.

More prominent manufacturing firms are set to issue warnings about Britain’s Brexit negotiations within days, after Airbus and BMW broke cover to say they could reconsider their UK investment plans unless a Brexit deal was reached keeping Britain closely aligned with Europe.

The only real way for that to happen, of course, is for Brexit to be scrapped, but despite today’s protest, it remains unclear how that can happen. Personally, I’m not sure I trust the electorate to deliver a second referendum result different from the first, given that the country is still, on balance, or for less balanced between Leave and Remain, with, still, millions of people who refuse to make any kind of commitment one way or another.

I actually think MPs should derail it, but I don’t hold out much hope for that either, as they have generally been so craven when it comes to rocking the Brexit boat. Resistance by the Lords has been more robust, but they lack the power to genuinely stop the government in an meaningful manner.

Do we really have to crash out of the EU, and destroy our economy, before we wake up, kick out the Tories, and ask the EU to forgive our episode of madness and let us back in?

I fear that the answer is yes, as I remember why it is that I’ve been so studiously avoiding engaging with Brexit for most of the last year. It’s simply too depressing …

Note: Anyone who’s seen my band The Four Fathers recently will know that we perform a storming song I wrote about Brexit, ‘I Want My Country Back (From The People Who Wanted Their Country Back)’, which we’ll be recording in about three weeks’ time, and then intend to release. Do get in touch if you want to be informed about its release.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

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 »

The Spectacular and Unforeseen Collapse of Theresa May and the Tories

An image that appeared on social media deriding Theresa May as "weak and wobbly" rather than the "strong and stable" leader she obsessively insisted she was. The "weak and wobbly" phrase was invented by Michael Crick of Channel 4 News.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Something extraordinary is happening in the UK, as Theresa May has turned a 20-point lead over the Labour Party into a three-point lead in the course of just one month, in what has been, without any advance warning, the most inept leadership performance by a Prime Minister in living memory.

Just two months ago, I was so thoroughly sickened by the relentless pro-Tory bias in the broadcast media — including most of the BBC’s output, and even Channel 4 News — that I stopped watching the news altogether. It has long been well-known to anyone paying attention that around 80% of Britain’s print media is implacably Tory, but it was a shock to see how, steadily, since the slavish coverage of Nigel Farage in 2014-15, the broadcast media had also become right-wing in what appeared to be a deeply entrenched manner, with a disgracefully high proportion of right-wing panellists and audience members on Question Time every week, with the transparent pro-Tory bias of Laura Kuennsberg on BBC News, and even Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News becoming notorious for most aggressively questioning anyone left-wing.

I didn’t stop reading the news online, particularly via the Guardian’s website, which I visit every day, and I continued to engage with the issues via social media, where, of  course, a vibrant left-leaning community exists, but I could no longer take the stress of watching and listening to a permanent biased media defend what ought to have been indefensible — Theresa May bullying everyone into silence regarding the self-inflicted madness of Brexit and also using it as a cover for the Tories continuing to lay waste to Britain’s essential services. 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 »

Theresa May and the Conservative Party’s Alarming White Fascist Aspirations

Theresa May, Britain's Prime Minister, making her first speech as PM. I slightly edited the banner behind her.It was always worrying that Theresa May, on being handed the leadership of the Conservative Party, unelected by either the Party or, more crucially, the British public, was immediately positioned as a safe pair of hands by the corrupt mainstream media, an illusion that was widely embraced by ordinary members of the general public. Immediately, it became apparent that a strong-looking woman in charge of the Tory party — and suddenly the ghost of Margaret Thatcher was back amongst us — appeals not just to Tory boarding school inadequates, but also to the British people in general, as a result, I believe, of the deep damage caused to the British psyche by centuries of class division and Puritanism.

Metaphysically, Theresa May was the only senior official left standing after the brutal denouement of the EU referendum — with David Cameron gone, George Osborne doomed, Boris Johnson disgraced for having campaigned to win something he didn’t even believe in, and Michael Gove just plain creepy — but that didn’t mean she should have been anointed to lead, after the last irritant, Andrea Lettsom, was disposed of.

As I hope I made clear in my article, As Theresa May Becomes Prime Minister, A Look Back at Her Authoritarianism, Islamophobia and Harshness on Immigration, she is not a safe pair of hands at all, but an alarming authoritarian, with a track record on counter-terrorism that is dangerously Islamophobic — remember her obsession with deporting Abu Qatada, rather than putting him on trial if he had committed a crime (see here and here), remember how she crowed about extraditing a Muslim British citizen with Asperger’s to the US, but refused to extradite a white British citizen with Asperger’s (see my Al-Jazeera article here), and remember how she stripped British citizens in Syria of their citizenship so that they could be killed in US drone attacks (see here and here). 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.
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