Photos of the March For Europe in London on Sep. 3 and the Need to Keep Fighting Brexit and the Tories

4.9.16

'We are citizens of Europe: No one has the right to take away our citizenship': a banner on the March for Europe in London, September 3, 2016 (Photo: Andy Worthington).See my photos on Flickr here.

On Saturday September 3, I visited Parliament Square at the end of the latest March for Europe. The first March for Europe took place on July 2, and was attended by around 50,000 people. See my photos here, and my article about it here.

Saturday’s march and rally was a smaller affair, but many thousands of protestors marched in London, and in other cities across the UK, and I believe more people would have taken part had it taken place a few weeks later, after the end of summer had more thoroughly worn off.

The March for Europe organisation describes itself as “a diverse, inclusive movement seeking strong ties between Britain and Europe,” and it provides an opportunity for those of us who were — and are — dismayed by the result of June’s EU referendum — to leave the EU — to highlight our concerns; essentially, as I see it, that leaving the EU will be so disastrous for our economy that MPs, generally supportive of remaining in Europe, must demand that Article 50, triggering our departure, is not triggered. If MPs refuse, those of us who perceive how disastrous leaving the EU would be need to do all we can to publicise the truth about what our isolation would mean.

For my earlier articles about the disastrous impact of the EU referendum, see: UK Votes to Leave the EU: A Triumph of Racism and Massively Counter-Productive Political Vandalism, Life in the UK After the EU Referendum: Waking Up Repeatedly at a Funeral That Never Ends, As the Leaderless UK Begins Sinking, MPs, Media and British Citizens Don’t Seem to Care, On Brexit, the Labour Party, With Its Blundering and Pointless Coup, Lost Its Best Opportunity Ever to Attack the Tories and 1,000+ Lawyers Tell Parliament that UK Cannot Leave EU Without MPs’ Consent.

As I explained when I posted the photos on Facebook:

Today I took these photos of the latest March for Europe in London, joining protestors calling for MPs, who mostly support remaining in the EU, to be allowed to vote on whether or not we should trigger Article 50, the piece of legislation that would officially initiate what would be our economically suicidal departure from the EU. Make no mistake: the funding that supports an untold number of jobs in the UK requires us to stay in the EU, as well as the trade that is so vital to our economy — much, much more so than mistaken notions of “protecting” ourselves from immigration (which, incidentally, is also hugely important for our economy).

Over the last month, I’ve been relieved to get away from the insanity of life in Britain right here, right now, having visited Spain with my family for a much-needed break, and having been extremely unwilling to engage with the ongoing madness since my return.

All good things must come to an end, however, and as the politicians are back at work, and Theresa May held a Cabinet meeting to decide what to do about implementing our departure from the EU, it has not been possible to pretend any longer that what is possibly the worst time of my life politically is a bad dream.

Do I exaggerate? Well no, not really. Not only did 52% of my fellow citizens vote to leave the EU, which continues to make no sense whatsoever, but the media doesn’t want to talk about how disastrous leaving the EU will be, just as they are, in general, unwilling to discuss the profound problems of a country in which the rich continue to get richer and the poor continue to get poorer, the economy is based to an alarming degree on housing greed, and a meaningful job market for the young is non-existent.

The media’s refusal to engage with the real issues is also apparent in their refusal to accept that the Labour Party can have a socialist leader, and echoes the majority of Labour MPs, who refuse to accept the Party members’ choice of leader, and seem determined to destroy the Party completely, allowing the Tories, with their new, unelected leader, Theresa May, to conveniently obscure the fact that this whole mess is the Conservative Party’s fault, and that May is a genuinely dangerous and divisive authoritarian. And this whole mess now sees the Tories — with the addition, I suspect, of a post-Olympics bounce — leading in the polls by what ought to be an unimaginable margin.

The present, therefore, is bleak, and the future even bleaker, unless we act, to publicise the horrors that will come unless we draw back from the brink, and to try to persuade MPs that they must be allowed to vote on triggering Article 50, and that they must vote for us to stay in the EU, a position they themselves hold, and that should not be overturned by a majority in a referendum that is not legally binding and that should never have been called.

Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, when the Tories discussed the next steps for Brexit,  was described by the Guardian’s Martin Kettle a showing that “what Brexit really means is still a work in progress.”

Kettle’s article — clearly expressing how “Theresa May will lead us into a bleak future – outside the single market,” continued:

It was always clear, for instance, that meaningful migration controls would be at the heart of any Brexit package that May will accept. Border controls are crucial to the social reform Toryism she stands for. That was explicitly confirmed this week. Free movement as we know it will end. The rules governing movement to and from the 27 remaining European Union member states will change. Downing Street claims to have a pretty clear idea of what it wants to achieve.

Likewise, it has always been obvious that May will look to maintain existing EU single market trading links as much as possible. As an aim it’s a no-brainer. But the reality is something else. You can’t be in the single market without free movement, so if the UK forsakes free movement, in what sense can it still access the single market? Deciding how far to push that is not a dilemma for London, but one for the whole EU.

True, it is a mistake to think that no compromises whatever are possible. The single market is not just one undifferentiated system. Services, digital issues, energy and transport are all not fully unified. Even rights to free movement can be differentiated – like existing length of stay, the position of dependents, students and, in particular, those in and with offers of employment.

Nevertheless, it is naive to imagine May either wants to or could deliver continued freedom of movement in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. The Brexit vote was many things, but at its heart it was a revolt against migration, both real and imagined. Others may be in denial about this, but the prime minister certainly is not.

It therefore follows that Britain has not got a hope in hell of negotiating a deal that keeps the country in the single market after Brexit. Freedom of movement is not a detail, to be casually set aside. And if the UK is determined to end freedom of movement, it also follows that UK access to the single market will be very limited.

Not enough people have grasped this yet. Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform thinktank says “the British people are living in cloud cuckoo land” about the economic impact. Most prophets of post-Brexit economic doom are lying low at the moment – August’s rebound in manufacturing being the latest reason for them to do so. But it is hard to imagine how a Britain outside the single market will not struggle.

That, I think, is putting it mildly. In contrast to the Leave campaign’s lies about how we would get back the £350m we supposedly gave to the EU every week, and would spend it on the NHS, it is clear that the £350m figure was a blatant lie, and, moreover, the government never had any intention of spending any more money on the NHS, as it wants only to privatise Britain’s greatest asset.

In fact, the UK pays around £13bn a year to the EU, but receives back at least half of that in support for farmers, poor areas of the UK, and scientific research — but only someone delusional would think that all of those supported via EU funding will find their funding replaced by the Tories. This week I met a friend and filmmaker, who works with vulnerable young people, who told me how his entire sector faces total collapse, as funding is withdrawn, and funders — including some large corporate funders — are talking about moving their operations to France or Germany, moves that we are not hearing about, as our media, for the most part, conspires to pretend that it is business as usual.

It is, as I hope you agree, very clearly not business as usual, and I encourage you to think about what can be done in the coming months, and to take a look at the new incarnation of the Remain campaign’s Stronger In Europe project; namely, Open Britain, which is calling for Britain to remain in the single market, and is warning that millions of jobs depend on it. They also have a petition to sign, which will also allow them to keep you updated.

Also see the album here:

A sea of blue on the March for Europe

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 debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for 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).

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9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, in which I link to my photo set of yesterday’s March for Europe in London, and provide my thoughts on Brexit as our unelected PM, Theresa May, returns to work, promising, disastrously, to place curbing immigration ahead of keeping us in the single market in the negotiations regarding leaving the EU. This is in spite of the fact that doing so will have a disastrous impact on the UK economy – more disastrous, I believe, that anyone in our corrupt mainstream media is prepared to discuss. I think we still need to call for MPs to refuse to allow Article 50 to be triggered, and we need to demand transparency and communication from the Tories regarding every single step of the ongoing negotiations.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Ann Alexander wrote:

    Great photos as usual Andy.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Ann. I do like photographing protestors. I suppose it’s because I find it so easy to connect with them.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Here we go – ‘Japan’s Unprecedented Warning To UK Over Brexit’ on Sky News, by Faisal Islam, formerly of Channel 4 News:

    At the start of the G20 Summit, the Japanese government has taken the unprecedented step of warning of a series of corporate exits, “great turmoil” and harmful effects if Brexit leads to the loss of single market privileges.

    An official Japanese government task force on Brexit, has collated views of big Japanese companies from car companies to banks and pharmaceutical companies that invest in the UK.

    It has produced a 15-page list titled “Japan’s message to the UK and the EU”, detailing requirements from Brexit negotiations.

    It lists the consequences if the requirements are not delivered.

    Half of Japanese investment in the EU comes to the UK including companies such as Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nomura and Daiwa.

    “Japanese businesses with their European headquarters in the UK may decide to transfer their head-office function to Continental Europe if EU laws cease to be applicable in the UK after its withdrawal,” the report concludes.

    It says: “In light of the fact that a number of Japanese businesses, invited by the Government in some cases, have invested actively to the UK, which was seen to be a gateway to Europe, and have established value-chains across Europe, we strongly request that the UK will consider this fact seriously and respond in a responsible manner to minimise any harmful effects on these businesses.”

    The list is the most tangible account anywhere of what businesses are asking for from the Brexit negotiations.

    It suggests Japanese car companies fear that they will be hit by a double whammy of trade tariffs.

    There were fears of levies being imposed twice “once for auto parts imported from the EU and again for final products assembled in the UK to be exported to the EU – which would have a significant impact on their businesses.”

    The report also states that the UK leaving the EU would damage exports from Britain to third countries because of trade privileges within the EU single market around so-called “rules of origin”.

    “Brexit would make such products unable to meet the rules of origin as EU products, which means that Japanese companies operating in the EU would not be able to enjoy the benefit of the Free Trade Areas concluded by the EU,” the report said.

    It also calls on the UK to “maintain access to workers who are nationals of the UK or the EU”, saying the European labour market could suffer “great turmoil” if EU nationals could not freely travel between and stay in the UK and continental Europe.

    The Japanese government warns its banks will move their European HQs out of London if the Brexit negotiations fail to secure the financial services passport to operate in the EU.

    “If Japanese financial institutions are unable to maintain the single passport obtained in the UK, they would face difficulties in their business operations in the EU and might have to acquire corporate status within the EU anew and obtain the passport again, or to relocate their operations from the UK to existing establishments in the EU,” said the report.

    This concern has already been noted by the Bank of England, but this is the strongest indication yet of other nations spelling out the implications of some types of Brexit.

    Those impacts also will be felt in the pharmaceutical industry, says the report, which sees the location of the EU’s European Medicines Agency in London as crucial to the UK’s high tech research appeal.

    “Many Japanese pharmaceutical companies are operating in London, due to the EMA’s location in London.

    “If the EMA were to transfer to other EU Member States, the appeal of London as an environment for the development of pharmaceuticals would be lost, which could possibly lead to a shift in the flow of R&D funds and personnel to Continental Europe.

    “This could force Japanese companies to reconsider their business activities,” says the report.

    PM Shinzo Abe warned of some of this ahead of the Brexit vote in a joint press conference with then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

    UK officials reacted with astonishment that Japan had chosen to publish this list of concerns and demands.

    PM Theresa May is likely to meet Mr Abe later this month in New York.

    See: http://news.sky.com/story/japans-unprecedented-warning-to-uk-over-brexit-10564585

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    The Guardian also noted the US angle in a G20 article, stating that, “[At] her first bilateral meeting with Obama, May was warned that the US wanted to focus on trade negotiations with the EU and a bloc of pacific nations before considering a deal with the UK.” More here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/04/g20-theresa-may-warns-of-tough-times-for-uk-economy-after-brexit

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    And here’s some good analysis of the Japanese position from Patrick Wintour, the Guardian’s Diplomatic Editor – ‘Britain cannot easily dismiss Japanese Brexit warning letter’:

    The Japanese government letter setting out its Brexit demands is deeply troubling to the UK since it is clear Japanese companies want Theresa May to negotiate a deal that leaves Britain not just in the EU customs union, and single market, but also retains a free flow of workers between the EU and the UK.

    The UK government could not possibly accede to these demands if May’s mantra Brexit means Brexit is to mean anything. Yet the Japanese requests – set out in a 15-page memo – are likely to become the benchmark by which many countries with strong economic ties to the UK will judge the outcome of the talks.

    Above all, the Japanese memo underlines the UK is not only negotiating bilaterally with the EU commission and council of ministers, but with many other foreign firms that have invested in the UK, each of which is quite capable of upping sticks in the next phase of their investment cycle.

    The fear for Downing Street is that other non-EU countries – under internal pressure from their business communities – will now follow the Japanese example and publicly set out the parameters of an acceptable deal from the point of view of their UK-based companies. China for instance is not known for its diplomatic subtlety when commercial interests are at stake. Other countries in east Asia may also make their views known.

    More at: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/04/britain-japanese-brexit-letter-eu

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    After my friend George Kenneth Berger shared this, I wrote:

    Thanks for sharing, George. I also recommend reading about Japan’s 15-page warning to the UK about Brexit.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I read it, Andy.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    A powerful rebuke to the small-minded delusion of so many of the Brexiters, George. Theresa May needs to pay attention.

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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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