Brexit: Opposition to Leaving the EU Builds, While Theresa May Reminds EU Citizens Living and Working in the UK That They Are Pawns in Her Inept Game

A child protesting against the outcome of the EU referendum at the March for Europe in London on September 3, 2016 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a freelance investigative journalist and commentator.

 

On Brexit, the Tory government is still flailing around like the most drunk person at a wedding.

Last week, the home secretary Philip Hammond delivered a forgettable Budget dominated by the largest elephant in the room — the continuing fallout from the EU referendum in June, which he conveniently forget to mention. In the meantime, the  Office for Budget Responsibility, the government body set up by George Osborne to impartially assess the UK economy, provided a reality check. As the Independent described it, “A shadow has been cast over Brexit Britain as the country faces a £122 billion budget black hole, dwindling growth, slow trade, lower pay and austerity stretching into the late 2020s.” In particular the newspaper noted, the OBR “set out how Brexit was driving the UK’s public finances deep into the red, with a key factor being the cost of losing valuable foreign workers.”

Brexiteers, in a constant state of denial about the suicidal cost of their enthusiasm for leaving the EU, even though they still cannot summon up a single compelling reason for this life-threatening rupture to take place, took aim at the OBR, as they do everyone and every organisation that threatens their costs delusions out sovereignty. Martin Kettle’s take on it was that the OBR had been “kneecapped in a back alley by Brexit provos and its brand has been trashed in the anti-European press’s embrace of post-truth politics.” Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS: Tories’ Own Auditor Finds “Financial Problems are Endemic and This is Not Sustainable” for NHS’s Survival

Campaigners for the NHS with a banner featuring Nye Bevan's famous quote about the NHS. Photo by Andy Worthington, from 'Britain Needs A Pay Rise', a march and rally in London organised by the TUC on October 18, 2014.

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The NHS faces an unprecedented crisis, and it’s all the Tories’ fault (with the help of some senior NHS officials). A new report by the National Audit Office, the government’s official auditor, has found that “[t]wo-thirds of health trusts in England are now in deficit,” and “their total debt has almost trebled since 2015 to £2.45bn,” as the Guardian described it, adding that auditors “were particularly alarmed by the decision to transfer £950m [out of a total of £4.6bn] from the NHS’s budget for buildings and IT to pay staff’s wages.”

The report follows the revelation on Monday that, as the Guardian described it, “[c]ontroversial plans put forward as a way of improving the health service in England and ensuring its sustainability risk being used as a cover for cuts and running down the NHS,” as Dr. Mark Porter, the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) council explained. The Guardian added that the BMA stated that the 44 regional Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) put forward in September “amount to £22bn in cuts by 2020-21 to balance the books, which will have a severe impact on patient care” — an understatement if ever I heard one. The impact, if implemented, would be nothing short of disastrous.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, stated that its report found that the NHS’s “financial problems are endemic,” and that this situation “is not sustainable” for a functioning health service. Her analysis of the crisis also included a recognition that “an increasing number of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)” — the groups set up under the Tories’ complete (and manifesto promise-breaking) overhaul of the NHS —  were “unable to keep their spending within budget.” Read the rest of this entry »

Ask Your MP to Tell Boris Johnson to Demand the Release of UK Citizen Andy Tsege, Kidnapped and on Death Row in Ethiopia

Andy Tsege, photographed with his family before he was kidnapped and illegally imprisoned by the Ethiopian government in 2014.Please ask your MP to demand action from Boris Johnson in demanding Andy Tsege’s release.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Yemi Hailemariam, the partner of Andy Tsege (Andargachew Tsege), a prominent opponent of the Ethiopian government, who, as I explained when Yemi subsequently stood for a photo for the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, “was kidnapped” in Yemen “and rendered to Ethiopia on the command of the Ethiopian government” in June 2014, as his lawyers at Reprieve explained, adding that he was “held in secret detention and in solitary confinement for over a year, without access to any form of due process. He has been paraded on Ethiopian TV looking ill and gaunt. He was given an in absentia death sentence in 2009. He could be executed at any time.” Andy is pictured above, with Yemi and their three children.

I noted the above when I posted Yemi’s photo, back in May, at a time when the British government, with Phillip Hammond as foreign secretary, had refused to act decisively on Andy’s behalf. Since then, of course, David Cameron has resigned following the EU referendum debacle, Theresa May has become our new and unelected Prime Minister, and Hammond has become home secretary, with May surprising everyone by appointing Boris Johnson as foreign secretary, a man with a history of racist comments about countries and people he is now supposed to be presenting himself to as a responsible and statesman-like figure.

No one who has seen the footage of John Kerry wincing as Johnson was grilled by journalists at one of his first outings as foreign secretary (a joint US-UK press conference) can be in any doubt that Johnson is ill-suited to the role, but he is now responsible for Britain’s position with regard to Andy Tsege, and answerable to the more than 130,000 people who have signed a 38 Degrees petition calling for Andy to be freed. Read the rest of this entry »

Shaker Aamer’s Abuse in Guantánamo Dismissed by British Foreign Secretary

In disappointing but predictable news, the British foreign secretary Philip Hammond, who replaced William Hague on July 15 this year, has “dismissed concerns over the abuse” of Shaker Aamer, the last British prisoner in Guantánamo, in a letter to his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, the founder and director of the legal action charity Reprieve, as described by the charity in a press release.

In August, as I explained at the time, Clive Stafford Smith wrote to Philip Hammond after he had “received a series of unclassified letters from various detainees who we represent in Guantánamo Bay,” which told “a disturbingly consistent story” — of “a new ‘standard procedure’” whereby the FCE team (the armored guards responsible for violently removing prisoners from their cells through “forcible cell extractions”) was being “used to abuse the prisoners with particular severity because of the on-going non-violent hunger strike protest against their unconscionable treatment.”

Stafford Smith also explained how one of Shaker Aamer’s fellow prisoners, Emad Hassan, a Yemeni who, like Shaker, has long been cleared for release, described how, on the Sunday before he wrote his letter, “Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood.” Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Violence: Prisoners Report Shaker Aamer “Beaten,” Another Man Assaulted “For Nearly Two Hours”

In a recent letter to the British foreign secretary Philip Hammond, Clive Stafford Smith, the founder and director of the legal action charity Reprieve, described how he has “just received a series of unclassified letters from various detainees who we represent in Guantánamo Bay,” which “tell a disturbingly consistent story” — of “a new ‘standard procedure’ where the FCE team [the armored guards responsible for violently removing prisoners from their cells through ‘forcible cell extractions’] is being used to abuse the prisoners with particular severity because of the on-going non-violent hunger strike protest against their unconscionable treatment.”

With particular reference to Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is still held despite being cleared for release since 2007, Stafford Smith noted in his letter, dated August 22,  “I have not received a recent letter from Shaker Aamer as I understand that he is seriously depressed — which is not surprising given all that he has been through.”

He added, “However, our other clients have reported that ‘[o]n Sunday, Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood.'”

In a press release, Reprieve noted that Mr. Aamer “has previously described being beaten by the FCE team up to eight times a day,” and added that he “has been held for long periods of solitary confinement since 2005 and is in extremely poor health.” Read the rest of this entry »

Shaker Aamer, Abandoned in Guantánamo

Please sign and share the petition on Change.org urging renewed action from President Obama to close Guantánamo, which now has over 200,000 signatures! Also please show your support for Shaker Aamer, if you can, by joining the protest outside Parliament from 12 noon to 3pm every weekday this week, and also next Monday and Tuesday (May 20-21), organised by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign. Also please note that, to mark the 100th day of the hunger strike, Witness Against Torture and other activists will be handing in the Change.org petition (and other petitions) to the White House at noon on May 17, and the London Guantánamo Campaign is staging a street theatre action outside the US Embassy at 2pm on Saturday May 18 (see the Facebook page)Please also sign the international petition to the British and American governments calling for Shaker’s release.

Although the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo is still raging, and President Obama spoke eloquently last week about the need for the prison to be closed, it remains painfully true that, for the 86 prisoners (out of 166 in total), who were cleared for release by an inter-agency task force that President Obama established in 2009, there is still no easy route out.

The case of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, ought to be the easiest to resolve. One of the 86, his return has regularly been requested since August 2007 by the British government, and the legislative obstacles raised by Congress to prevent the release of prisoners to countries they regard as dangerous doesn’t apply in Shaker’s case — the UK, after all, where his wife and children live, and are all British citizens, is America’s staunchest ally in the “war on terror,” and more than capable of keeping Shaker under surveillance if that were to be requested.

In the UK, pressure has been mounting for Shaker’s release. Last month, a petition to the British government, calling for renewed action to get him released, secured the 100,000 signatures necessary to trigger a Parliamentary debate (see here and here for the transcript), and it is to be hoped that a full Parliamentary debate will follow later this month or in June. 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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