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.”

However, the pretence that all is well continues to come unstuck, even as Theresa May, an authoritarian out of her depth, and her three Brexit ministers — the clown Boris Johnson, David Davis, also out of his depth, and the unhinged, corrupt and dangerous right-winger Liam Fox — continue to try and maintain the illusion that all is fine.

Just before the Budget, 90 Labour MPs wrote a letter to the Guardian pointing out how a “hard Brexit,” which the government seemed to be favouring, would be a disaster (although John Harris also pointed out how Labour lacks leadership on the question of opposing the Tories’ recklessness), and on November 28 a study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, one of the UK’s leading economics consultancies, which had been commissioned by an alliance of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians opposed to the “hard Brexit” option, revealed how “[l]eaving the single market would be damaging to almost every sector of the British economy, from manufacturing and energy to retail and financial services.”

The report also “found that every major wealth-creating sector would be affected negatively, with manufacturing hit if there were tariff barriers to EU trade and the creative industries suffering a ‘body blow’ if there were strict controls on immigration.”

Examining “the consequences of leaving the single market in favour of a free trade agreement struck on a bespoke basis for individual industries,” which Theresa May has hinted she favours, the CEBR warned that “all major sectors are linked to the EU and could be harmed if the UK government sought a free trade agreement which prioritised some sectors over others”.

The Guardian noted that the release of the report “comes at a time of growing mobilisation among MPs and political figures trying to stop the UK heading for a clean break with the EU single market and customs union, which is favoured by the most Eurosceptic cabinet ministers and leading Brexit campaigners such as Michael Gove,” and also noted that, for the first time since the referendum, a cross-party alliance of MPs – including Labour’s Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg and the Tory Anna Soubry – appeared together at an press conference called by Open Britain, the organisation that emerged from the ashes of the Stronger In campaign, who have made their focus continued membership of the single market.

At the press conference, Chuka Umunna said he “was concerned about the tone of the debate when it came to the practicalities of leaving” the EU, as the Guardian described it. He explained, “There are those who want to muzzle any debate; they don’t want to see a debate on the terms of our leaving, as if we live in some dictatorship,” he said, and referred to recent attacks on the Bank of England governor, the judiciary, and the Office of Budget Responsibility. He added, “If we allow this to go unchallenged we will be going down a very dangerous path indeed as a country, betraying our history and our tradition of promoting lively discussion and free speech. Those under attack are public servants.”

Open Britain also defended the involvement of former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Major in the debate about how — or indeed, if — the UK should leave the EU. Blair had been criticised for stating in an interview that leaving the EU could be stopped if the British people changed their minds. “It can be stopped if the British people decide that, having seen what it means, the pain-gain, cost-benefit analysis doesn’t stack up,” he said, adding, as the Guardian described it, that this process “could take place in one of two ways, hinging on negotiations over access to the EU’s single market.”

As Blair put it, “Either you get maximum access to the single market, in which case you’ll end up accepting a significant number of the rules on immigration, on payment into the budget, on the European court’s jurisdiction. People may then say, ‘Well, hang on, why are we leaving then?’ Or alternatively, you’ll be out of the single market and the economic pain may be very great, because beyond doubt if you do that you’ll have years, maybe a decade, of economic restructuring.” Brexit, Blair added, was “like agreeing to a house swap without having seen the other house”, and he also hoped that eventually those who voted Leave would “look at this in a practical way, not an ideological way.”

In a Facebook post, I explained my belief that “here, in a nutshell, is Britain’s problem. The war criminal Tony Blair, whose enthusiasm for the rich destroyed oppositional politics and turned the UK into the country it is today, with an ever-growing chasm between the rich and poor, and money as the only arbiter of success, is, in contrast, absolutely spot-on when it comes to Brexit and why and how it should be stopped.” I hope that what we’re starting to see is a broadly centrist coalition, although one that also includes figures on the left and the right, because the tragedy of Britons’ suicidal enthusiasm for Brexit is three-fold: most predictably, the right-wing Tories and UKIP supporters who support it, but also the disaffected people whose politics are more fluid, to whom no one is providing any kind of helpful advice, and, last but to least, those on the left who, in general, are also cheerleading our departure from the EU.

Fortunately, legal challenges are also continuing. Last month, the High Court’s ruling that “Parliament alone has the power to trigger Brexit by notifying Brussels of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union,” and that Theresa May cannot, like a tyrant, make us leave the EU without consulting Parliament, attracted unprecedented criticism and even threats from Brexiteers, who, like petulant children, throw a hissy fit — or worse — every time someone points out that we cannot actually leave the EU without working out what that means, and how it should be achieved. The government appealed, and this week the Supreme Court is expected to back the High Court, prompting, in advance, further petulance from the increasingly inept Theresa May.

The government also faces a second legal challenge, “over whether it should seek to retain membership of the single market during the Brexit process,” as the Guardian described it, explaining that lawyers “will argue that June’s referendum asked the public a single question over whether the UK should leave the EU, and did not delve into the more complex issue of economic access. The group British Influence will use a judicial review to suggest the government could be acting unlawfully if it uses Brexit to also leave the wider European Economic Area – through which non-EU countries such as Norway are inside the single market.”

Jonathan Lis, the deputy director of British Influence, said, “The single market wasn’t on the ballot paper. To leave it would be devastating for the economy, smash our free trading arrangement and put thousands of jobs at risk. Why should people not only throw the baby out with the bath water, but the bath out of the window?”

In my recent Facebook post, I explained how “[m]y hope is that, if the Supreme Court upholds the constitutional obligation for MPs to be involved in discussions about our departure from the EU, those who place our economic survival above pointless arguments about sovereignty will not let the result (in an advisory referendum that won with a very narrow majority) go ahead if it becomes apparent that we cannot do anything about immigration without leaving the single market, and that leaving the single market will be too high a cost for nominal control of our borders (control that, I suspect, would be spectral anyway). “

As I added, “Three-quarters of MPs supported Remain. Those of us who urge resistance to leaving the EU because it is the most stupid idea we could conceive of — and actually has no redeeming features whatsoever — need to work out how to encourage them to make sure they are not steamrollered into silence, or to allow them to silence themselves for political expediency.” The Independent reckons that, to date, “around 80 MPs will vote against the legislation in the Commons,” including “the newly elected Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney.”

I hope that number increases — or, at the very least, that MPs will refuse to be cowed by the bullying stupidity of Theresa May and her ministers.

And in the meantime, demonstrating, yet again, how little regard she has for anyone who is not British, Theresa May refused this week to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK, as part of an inter-EU row about reciprocal rights for UK citizens in other EU countries, and EU citizens here.

In response, Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said, as the Guardian put it, that Theresa May “should unilaterally pass legislation to secure the rights of up to 3 million European Union citizens to stay in Britain or risk souring the tone of the Brexit talks,” adding that she “should act immediately and abandon her increasingly controversial position of refusing to make any concession over the rights of EU citizens in the UK without securing equivalent guarantees for the 1.2 million UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU.”

As Starmer said, “It’s becoming increasingly apparent to me from my discussions in Brussels with those that are likely to be involved in the negotiations that they are very concerned about the fact that we are not giving comfort and status to their citizens. They have said to me, pretty well in terms, the UK should sort this out before March, and that would ensure that the article 50 negotiations got off to a much better start than they will otherwise do.”

Despite his intervention, the current situation is appalling for the EU citizens living and working here, as was explained by The 3 Million, a grassroots organisation by EU citizens for EU citizens, which “takes its name from the estimated number of EU citizens who moved from another member state and live and work, and have generally established their life in the UK, many for a very long time.”

On their website, The 3 Million state, “”We are not bargaining chips, we are people,” and, in a letter to home secretary Amber Rudd, Nicolas Hatton, the chair of The 3 Million, warned the government that “up to 1 million EU citizens living in the UK could be at risk of deportation if it does not come up with a simple way of recognising their status in the country,” in the Guardian’s words. The letter added that the organization “has told the home secretary it would take the Home Office 47 years to process applications from EU citizens for permanent residency (PR).”

The 3 Million’s letter stated, “We are people with families, children, friends and work colleagues, and we are rightly worried about a very uncertain future. EU citizens have been feeling very anxious about their future since the referendum, and this set of data will not reassure them. We call on you to remove the threat of deportation without notice and give us, today, guarantees that all EU citizens living legally in the UK will be able to exercise their right to remain before the UK leaves the EU.”

For further information, please read the moving stories in the Guardian’s article, “EU citizens in Britain post Brexit vote: ‘I feel betrayed, not at home, sad.’”

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).

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, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

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45 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, catching up on the latest developments in the disaster that is Brexit – a government still in denial about how suicidal leaving the EU will be for our economy, a cross-party coalition of MPs beginning to flex their political muscles, a new legal challenge, and Theresa May’s latest and thoroughly contemptible decision to treat the 3 million workers in the UK from other EU countries with disdain, as nothing more than bargaining chips in the UK’s Brexit negotiations.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    And in tomorrow’s Observer, ‘Top Tories: hard Brexit stance could lose us next election’:
    “The Tory party could lose the next general election if Theresa May alienates its core of moderate supporters by imitating UKIP and pushing through a hard Brexit, a group of former Conservative ministers and MPs says. The warning to the prime minister from the party’s senior ranks comes after Tory voters turned to the pro-EU Lib Dems in droves in Thursday’s Richmond Park byelection, delivering one of the biggest electoral shocks of recent times.”

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Former ministers Dominic Grieve, Alistair Burt and Claire Perry, along with education select committee chair Neil Carmichael and Bath MP Ben Howlett call the Richmond by-election result a wake-up call for Theresa May. They write, “The Conservative party needs to be alert that there is a moderate core of Conservative voters, who voted Remain, and who want to hear the Conservative government speaking above the noise of the Brexiters. They do not want the Conservative party to be Ukip-lite, nor to hear that their desire for a negotiated Brexit … is somehow an attempt to delay or simply an expression of Remoaning. They want the Conservative leadership to speak for them, too, and Richmond may be a reminder that their votes have another destination if we don’t get this right. That moderate voice is crucial for the party to keep the votes of the middle ground who could lose the Conservative party the next election if they take their votes elsewhere.”
    As I noted in a tweet, it’s typical that these Tories’ talk of how a “hard Brexit” could “lose us next election” still mistakes the problem, which is that a “hard Brexit” could also “f*ck up the economy in the biggest self-inflicted wound ever.”

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Also in today’s Observer, Scottish journalist Kevin Neil McKenna takes aim at the arrogant and privileged elite driving us off a cliff in ‘Brexit arrogance exposes ineptitude of Tory elite.” From the article:

    Almost every senior EU official, foreign minister and premier is united in their post-Brexit message to Britain: you can’t get access to the single market if you don’t allow free movement of our peoples and if you believe otherwise then you are a fool who is misleading your own people.

    Theresa May now appears to have grasped that the EU is not for budging, which is why this devout Christian is prepared to use millions of EU citizens resident in the UK as human shields in her negotiations with Europe. In Ms May’s church, they probably skipped over the feeding of the 5,000 lest any vulnerable person misinterpret it as a justification for socialism.


  5. Andy Worthington says...

    And here’s an interesting column by Polly Toynbee, ‘Brexit is bigger than any single party – Richmond Park has taught us that’, looking at the need for progressive alliances against the Tories and UKIP. As she writes, “The great lesson for the left and centre-left was taught by Caroline Lucas, who deserves most praise for this result. The wisdom and foresight of her elegant decision not to run a Green candidate sent out exactly the right message to the voters of Richmond: Brexit and how we survive it is bigger than any one party. The votes she swung behind the Lib Dem Sarah Olney were vital, but less important than the message that anti-tribal alliances will be essential from now on. Only a progressive alliance can overcome the dark forces being stirred on the other side.”

  6. damo says...

    now more than ever the tories and ukip need to be stopped..just watching the repugnant spectical of….boris…. on the marr show…sat there like some kind of fat pot bellied clown talking shit nonescenece gibberish and thinking hes so inteligant and clever marr sucking up being as gentle as possable …the arrogance of the man when challenged by a labour mp on brexit….its allright for boris isnt it if the economy tanks he dosent care all from a man who said 250 grand was chickenfeed

  7. damo says...

    may is so inept and stupid she dosent understand how the world views this country now espesh with a liability like boris a forieghn secetary

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    I find myself unable to watch any of these buffoons, Damo. I just get too angry. So at least Marr had Keir Starmer on, who is the voice of sense and reason on Brexit. Anyone who wants to watch it can find it here for the next 29 days:
    But Paul Nuttalls of the UKIPs? (thanks, Stewart Lee:
    Why give him the oxygen of publicity? Surely the bigger story this week was the election victory of Sarah Olney of the Lib Dems in Richmond? Nuttall, in contrast, should only ever be confronted in public with lines from Stewart Lee’s routine.

  9. damo says...

    it was a victory against the vile charlitan shat goldsmith lol good but was hardly covered in the mainstream media but what a fantastic punch right in the torie face i think and hope we are seeing the sart of an anti torie ukip brexit backlash

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    I hope so too, Damo, but I’m not holding my breath. It certainly indicates significant concern in areas where the Tory Remain vote was high, and that might well be significant. The Tories won’t want to lose power, so they’ll be forced to acknowledge that pretending there’s a huge mandate for leaving the EU – and, moreover, for a ‘hard Brexit’ – risks alienating many of their core voters in metropolitan areas; the sort of voters they really can’t do without.

  11. damo says...

    i hope so too we simply cannot cannot cannot trigger article 50 not only will it destroy our economy a fact that the brexit means brexit shril screetchers arent bright enough to comprehend it also means torie rule…absolute…no unions no human rights no workers rights deportations …..unfortunately maybe this needs to happen to wake up people from there apathy ….and god help anyone whos a torie or ukip farage had better stay in america lol lets hope the triggering of article 50 never happens the poison of brexit seems to be spreding across europe

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I think you’re right about the right-wing Tories’ fantasy of a “free” Britain, Damo – free from the pesky rights guaranteed by EU membership. “[N]o unions, no human rights, no workers rights [and] deportations” sounds about right to me. What will it take for the rose-tinted spectacle-wearing isolationist fantasists to wake up? Nothing, perhaps. Fantasies are just that – impervious to reality.
    The shambles is apparent to anyone paying attention, though.
    A few examples here:
    ‘In their ruthless flight from liberalism, Tories have left decency behind’ by Zoe Wlliams – good on the Tories’ amoral and inflexible cluelessness:
    And ‘EU’s chief divorce negotiator to make first Brexit statement’, about Michel Barnier, the EU’s “chief divorce negotiator”, in an article in which a senior EU source also told the Guardian that it will cost Britain around £50bn to leave the EU, which “would cover the UK’s share of EU staff pensions, unpaid bills on infrastructure projects, and the cost of decommissioning nuclear power plants.”The Guardian added that “the number varies considerably depending on assumptions about what the UK is liable for,” and also noted that the European Commission’s “number-crunchers are also examining different Brexit scenarios to gauge the potential economic hit for the UK and the EU27.”
    And this is interesting – ‘Norway tells Britain: no Brexit “silver bullet” over single market access’:
    “Britain must understand that there is no ‘silver bullet’ over Brexit that would permit single market access without paying into the EU and being bound by some of its rules, Norway’s foreign minister has warned ahead of a meeting in London.”

  13. damo says...

    the tories ukip and the brexit means brexit …..wierdos….dont understand they think they can have all this access to the markets to trade lol lol if they leave…….no………no…… norway say no you cant have that……no…….over the last 8 years after the banking crash it has been the poorest people who through so called austerity have paid off and are still paying off that debt left by the stinking bankers and anyone who is awake and sane knows if article 50 is trigered and were left with this 50 billion pound debt ….lol…lol.. the stinking windsors are not gonna pitch in are…yes thats right people who are economicaly at the very bottom of the heap will have wot very very little they have taken from them …..andy for f..ks sake what has it got to get like here before people wake the f..k up …like the 3rd world like those films the hunger games ….come on man

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s worrying, Damo. Where are the crushed and defeated? How many of them have given up completely, and didn’t even vote in the referendum, and how many have foolishly thought that UKIP will be their saviours? Paul Nuttall, would-be destroyer of the NHS, doesn’t sound like he’ll be much help.
    I think these are the twin problems, though – on the one hand, those who have given up completely on any sort of engagement with the state on any level (beyond their presumably unacknowledged use of endangered public services), and on the other hand the deluded, looking to UKIP (or the Tories’ anti-EU isolationists) for answers, as though they are even remotely capable of addressing their fundamental concerns, or even interested in doing so, to be honest.
    Trump has ridden into town in the US – presumably on a heavy horse capable of carrying his weight! – promising protectionism and American jobs, but he presumably won’t actually commit himself wholeheartedly to taking on the might of international capital – and the profits of his own country’s fat cats. If he does, it will get quite interesting. However, here in the UK, it’s clear that neither the Tories nor UKIP are talking about that, and, as it currently stands, only socialists are capable of contemplating a massive programme of state-led job creation and the promise of full employment, which I haven’t even heard whispered for decades.
    Can we get to a place where we have protectionism and government-led employment? A massive social homebuilding programme, for example, or a Green revolution? It certainly doesn’t seem so right now, but we need to work out how to get those ideas out there, so that people can at least think about them.

  15. damo says...

    andy the tories and going to do …….nothing…nothing…nothing ..nothing…for any kind of manufactureing here thay helped by new labour squandered and gave away all our industry also helped by the very consumers themselves with there cries…cheaper…cheaper…cheaper..cant you do or sell it cheaper…resulting in practicaly all manufactureing going abroad.
    for the poorest people in this country now….there in stay alive survival mode they havent got the will or energy or belife in politics right now…trump is not going to bring manufactureing back those days are long gone….andy…bingo..a socialist future is the only way …but first we need to rid this planet of the neocons and capitalists

  16. damo says...

    unless we have a massive swing towards a socialist future there is no future for a large part of the population in this sadsack country

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    But no one wants to talk about the outsourcing problem, Damo. Everyone accepts that the jobs have gone forever, and that in the west we have to find new work – but no one admits that there isn’t anywhere near enough of this new work to go around, and that we have casualised, zero hours, part-time work that people can’t live on, and persistent unemployment.
    I’d like to see very cheap housing, and jobs brought back to the UK, and education about globalisation and exploitation – but hey, what do I know?

  18. damo says...

    andy the majority of the mp.s in parliment now are not there to help anyone but themselves it will take a brave mp to stand up and tell the truth ….industry in this country is dead ….over……thease are our opptions and we need to do this…this….this..and this but lol whens that ever likely to happen but sooner rather than later someone brave needs to tell this is how it is and must be ………the gig ….economy only benefits the employers…no one eles least the employee thease stupid wretched tories comeing out with there bs oooh and this ones the best … can ern as much as you like or as little as you like…….priceless

  19. damo says...

    if there were a massive housebuilding program of building sustaineable affordable low cost low energy houseing im sure there would be thousands of new jobs and homes created a win win situation

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, but a huge social homebuilding programme would puncture the housing bubble and create negative equity, Damo, so nothing must be done, and the market – the rigged, artificially encouraged market – must be maintained as though it were something natural.
    It’s such a disgrace, and the complacency is mind-boggling.
    Here’s what that bubble is doing to ordinary hard-working people, via research conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – ‘Study finds 7m Britons in poverty despite being from working families’:

    From the article:

    A significant factor in these shifts, the study said, was the increased number of people living in expensive and insecure private rental properties, with the number of people in poverty in private lets doubling in a decade to 4.5 million. “Failures in the housing market are a significant driver of poverty,” the study said. “This is primarily, but not entirely, due to costs.”

  21. damo says...

    this is a de industrialised country now houseing …arms..and corruption are the only industries here now though reading the headline of the vile evening standard ……sales of….luxury….homes slump in london….oooh dear id like to say but good people i know who are builders are affected by this becouse there isnt the bread and butter work there at the mercy of the developers too the insidious bubble.
    they said back in the late 70s early 80s when they were still building the flats ie council flats there was allways regular work you had a stable income now people are bidding with everyone eles for crumbs of work just to feed the bubble…….bubbles go pop

  22. damo says...

    the only industrys now are the magistrates courts fineing the poorest over and over again and the bailiff industrys being promoted by the truly foul ch5 with programs like…cant pay well take it away…..programs that promote and fetishise peoples misery

  23. damo says...

    i remember watching some young uni type working for thease programs when they first started…..yeah yeah its a realy exiteing time ……………realy

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, housing is the heart of the economy, Damo; in other words, never have so many been so ripped off so comprehensively and on such an individual basis by so few. Obviously, banks and lawyers are all sustained by the bubble and by buy to let, but there are also countless individuals who profit directly from the exploitation of other individuals by fleecing them in rent – and yet there is no moral angle to what they do at all. It’s as if we were back in the worst days of the Victorians.
    I’m delighted to hear about a slump in the luxury housing market, and can only hope it has a knock-on effect to burst the bubble. The Guardian reports that “Sales of properties costing between £5m and £10m [are] down 51% from 2015, with new-builds sold for more than £5m in London falling 83%,” which can only be good news:
    As for you other points, yes, we have a disgustingly huge arms industry, and yes, we’re also the kings and queens of corruption. What a dirty place this is.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    I’d never ever watch ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away’, Damo, but I know people who do and it’s disgusting that it’s shown at all.
    The company responsible is Brinkworth Films, who claim, “We know how to make outstanding television.” The truth, I suspect, is, “We need to make money, and making people laugh at the misery of the poor is the only way to do it these days.”
    Last year, a couple of recruiters from Love Productions (Bake Off) were in Lewisham looking for people to take part in a show about formerly estranged dads and sons being reunited. Of course they came to Lewisham rather than going to Mayfair, because the alienation in posh families isn’t what they were looking for. This is the same company that made the widely-criticised Benefits Street, which I watched once – and also found very disturbing.
    As you say, the people making the programmes, and those commissioning them, are “fetishis[ing] people’s misery” and encouraging the hard-heartedness towards the poor that is one of the most depressing aspects of life in modern Britain. And meanwhile, other independent production companies are touting filth about the super-rich, encouraging people to look up to them as though anyone super-rich – anyone obsessed with materialism and status, to be honest – is anything other than a degenerate and a parasite.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Unfortunately, people get bought, Damo.
    Back in August 2012, I attended a protest against Atos outside their corporate HQ in London, and overheard an employee – German, ironically – complaining about being the victim of protest when she was just doing a job. She seemed to have no idea that Atos makes money – and is able to pay her the minimum entry fee into affordable society in the 21st century – £36,000 a year minimum – through the direct exploitation of disabled people for money.
    My report and photos here:
    Now obviously, all these leech companies – like Atos, Serco, G4S, the list goes on – are easy targets, but the private sector in general, whether at the corporate level – including the aggressive new monsters of the tech era, or the still-rapacious banking sector – or via the many small to medium sized service companies – making TV, branding, doing adverts, making food, selling women’s clothes, selling more women’s clothes, selling more women’s clothes – and shoes – and oops! yes, all made abroad by economic slaves – is buying into that same system via that entry-level reward – £36,000 a year – which exactly enables a couple to buy into the property market (with its entry level of a single or joint income of £72,000 a year).
    Until people opt out, it seems to me we’re doomed to have an “us and them” division in society in which those doing OK desperately cling onto their status, while everyone else is allowed to – or is made to – sink, and all the while the rich carry on laughing.

  27. damo says...

    unfortunately andy reading the headlines of the papers today looks like we are going to brexit despite even the bank of england saying dont for gods sake dont…and there she is theresa msy sucking up to the saudis …no doubt selling the wepons to kill with…but fetishiseing the rich is the way of the world now the vile alan sugar ..trump…apprentice mentality….yeah look at me im rich im a…….winner…… yeah sure you are

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    I think what’s particularly appalling, Damo, is Theresa May sneaking in an amendment requiring Parliament to allow her to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, thereby neutralising the efficacy of debate if, for example, it becomes apparent – during the forthcoming consultation that she didn’t want MPs to have – that leaving the EU will be the biggest act of national suicide in history.
    She continues to behave as though the referendum outcome gave her a mandate to be a tyrant, and the tabloids continue to behave as though dissent is treason, targeting the 89 MPs who, quite rightly, voted against Theresa May’s thoroughly self-serving amendment “call[ing] on the government to invoke Article 50 by 31 March 2017.”
    As the Guardian noted, “The Commons passed Labour’s motion calling for ‘the prime minister to commit to publishing the government’s plan for leaving the EU before article 50 is invoked’ by 448 to 75 votes – a majority of 373 – after it was amended by Downing Street … The vote is non-binding but was a highly symbolic moment as it marked the first time MPs had endorsed the government’s Brexit timetable, announced by May at the Conservative party conference.”
    More here:
    The rebels – 51 SNP, 23 Labour, 5 Lib Dems, 3 SDLP, 3 Plaid, 2 Independents, 1 Green and 1 Tory (Ken Clarke) – are listed here:
    And good on them, but the tabloids have been going after them, and just now the Telegraph is reporting that UKIP intends “to target the six MPs who defied their constituents and voted against triggering Article 50”:

  29. damo says...

    what the f..k is ukip its not even a party in the commons farage is nothing …jesus christ when will thease crooked mp,s get the f..k out of everybodys hair and off there backs ….they wont leave the population alone inflicting themselves and there f..ked up disasterous policies on everyone its becouse this countrys the areshole of the world and seen as an unfunny joke and ignored our mp,s laughted at and dissmissed by other world leaders they resort to endlessly harrasing the good god

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, that’s exactly right, and when you put it like that you have to ask on what basis the BBC in particular – but almost all the mainstream media – give Nigel Farage the oxygen of publicity he so desperately craves.
    So the smug little reptile was on Question Time, I saw, but I couldn’t watch more than a few seconds. One Tory MP, one ex-Tory MP and one UKIP MEP are supposed to be representative of anything other than the horrible right-wing bias of Question Time’s producers and David Dimbleby? Will Self and Labour’s Richard Burgon can handle themselves, but really? 60% right-wingers, and two of them that can legitimately be described as far right – Farage and the truly dreadful former Tory MP Louise Mensch? (The serving Tory MP was Dr. Sarah Wollaston, who defected from Leave to Remain just before the referendum, and is good on health, but has backed her party’s welfare cuts).
    At least Will Self got to describe Farage and his idol, Donald Trump, as “grubby little opportunists riding the coat-tails of history”:

  31. damo says...

    lol good old will self i like him i couldnt watch i cant stand dumbleby i physicaly cannot stomach even the sight of farage he is everything that people hate about this country …….we are now in a right wing country arent we…..though i dont watch earlyer on ch5 they had a …cant pay well take it away…….christmass special……..can you believe that a christmass special i kid you not i mean …… twisted…….realy realy twisted …… fetishiseing and wanking at some poor sods being turfed out at christmass ….wtf…..the grotesque thing andy is they love on that repulsive programe to show immagrant familys being evicted playing right into the hands of the rightwing …who no doubt are wanking as they feast on the saddness those programes revel in……..the uk and its population are now seen as the bogyman of europe.

  32. damo says...

    if you are poor and on benefits working min wage or not and with all the benefit cuts you will be robbing peter to pay paul getting behind with bills ect ect unless your being helped in some other way you simply cannot survive now ….you cant. were seeing the return of victorian diseases …rickettes…for gods sake and thease voyeristic twisted programs …seem to feast on the struggles and misery of the people who have zero its allways people on benefits and poor immmagrant families people with nothing. there was posted clips from the cant pay show of a frail man with mental health problems very vulnerable he had a small elderly dog, prob the only liveing being in this world who loved him ..they were put out into the street in the f..king rain …i dont want to be part of a country or society that does this and i find it horrifik at how far we have sunk.

  33. damo says...

    i read that the poor frail man and his dog were taken in by some homeless people who had organized a squat the poor guy and his dog had spent 3 nights out there in the street …funny isnt it he was shown the most care, support, people, human beings who also had the least……….what does that say…….the tories …trump..ukip ….they will be the death of us all andy ….unless we start fighting back

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    The bailiffs featured in ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away’ brag about it on their website, Damo:
    “This highly regarded observational documentary series for Channel 5”, they note, “is often their highest rating show, achieving regular figures of between 1.8 million and 2 million viewers per episode.” How depressing.
    So yes, the Christmas Special – it’s on the website too:
    How did we get to place where this sort of programme-making is acceptable?

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Very sad story about this frail man with mental health problems, Damo. As you note, how can it be acceptable that this man and his dog were put out onto the street in the pouring rain, and it was filmed and broadcast? How? As you say, it’s horrific how far we’ve sunk.

  36. Damo says...

    But he was put out into the street in the rain I personnely can’t think of anything more terryfieing because this man had a dog nowhere would take him in ,I wonder if the people involved right there right then actually filming offered any kind of help…….offered anything ….????? I mean there getting paid and making a bunch of money from these poor people……right…..

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, exactly, Damo. It wouldn’t surprise me if they pretended that there was an “objectivity” to their grubby little work, and that they couldn’t get involved, conveniently overlooking the fact that there’s nothing objective about what they do at all; that every time these bailiffs operate with a film crew present, it’s different than if there was no one there. The production company is complicit in the abuse.

  38. Damo says...

    I wonder if these poor sods involved when the bailiffs turn up get any kind of say in the matter or is the privacy just over ruled

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    I don’t know, Damo, but it’s a very valid question. I just checked whether there was any criticism of the programme online and found this forum, which is interesting:
    Another one here:

  40. Damo says...

    I read, sounds good, they just pitch up film crew in tow and the poor sods have no say what’s so ever hmmmm amazing this passes for entertainment these days …..were I used to live on the south coast if they had done that it would have ended badly.

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I can think of many scenarios from the 80s and 90s when they would have been met with violence, Damo. So what happened to people’s spirit?
    I was asking this last night at an exhibition you should visit, at the Hive in Dalston, run by a collective who’ve been allowed to run an empty office block while the owner works out how to redevelop the site.
    The exhibition is ‘Resistance! 25 years of UK grassroots movements for social change’:
    Find The Hive here:
    I wa meeting my friend Adrian Arbib, who was curating the photos, and had some photos of his own there from the road protests of the 90s – and Stonehenge. Adrian contributed photos to my books on Stonehenge and the counter-culture and the Battle of the Beanfield.
    His sites are here:
    His excellent road protest book is here:
    And this is my article about his book:
    Adrian also introduced me to the legendary protest photographer David Hoffman, who had a Poll Tax Riot photo featured.
    David’s site is here – spend some time. Check it out!
    For his his Poll Tax Riot page, visit this page and scroll down:
    I also met Jenny Matthews, who had a Greenham Common photo included:
    Jenny’s sites are here:
    Unfortunately, we could reach no clear conclusion about what has happened to dissent and anger, or how to get it back, but I felt particularly strongly that I was living in some some sort artificially numbed world when looking at David’s Poll Tax Riot photo. It was only 26 years ago, but it looked like a lifetime ago.

  42. damo says...

    yes they would have but now we have an entire industry dedicated to harrasing the poorest people for money people who in 21st century uk can barely afford to eat and yet there being taken to court and fined over and over thus trapping them in an endless cycle of debt which they cant pay …yes were is that spirit of fightback its in short supply right when we need it most

  43. Andy Worthington says...

    Absolutely, Damo. I’m thinking back to the Poll Tax Riot, precipitated by the Community Charge (Poll Tax), which, of course, levied an equal tax on all of us regardless of income – apart from the unemployed and old people who were required to pay, if I recall correctly, about £2 a week. And what happened? Well, there was mass non-payment, and the system started to collapse under the strain.
    As soon as our modern governments began to insist that the unemployed had to pay some of their council tax, and some of their housing benefit, there should have been massive resistance – difficult for the people affected, but where were the politicians? It’s something Labour should have campaigned to prevent. How are people receiving around £50 a week supposed to pay any of that towards council tax and rent? It’s a cruel and absurd position, as you point out, which creates an endless cycle of savagely damaging debt, and I bet most people don’t even know about it.

  44. damo says...

    but theres a new much much more insidyus poll tax one thats aimed at the poorest the torie abolition of council tax benefits people are being taken to court over and over again …..yes 27 years ago people were out there protesting thank god there are some grass roots movements out there buts its not enough

  45. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, that’s what I was referring to, Damo – but of course it’s not even reported properly.
    I found a report by the Child Poverty Action Group/Zacchaeus 2000 Trust entitled, ‘A new poll tax? The impact of the abolition of council tax benefit in London’, written by Sam Ashton which looks very good:
    Also see DWP Unspun:
    That has links to the story being reported in the mainstream press, like this Guardian article, ‘Thousands in court for council tax arrears as benefit cuts hit home’:
    But it’s all old news, unfortunately. That Guardian article is three years old.
    And this Mirror article is three and half years old:
    I also came across this site, Taxpayers Against Poverty, set up by the Rev. Paul Nicolson, who has been protesting by refusing to pay his council tax:
    He previously founded the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K), which “now supports over 2000 cases a year of benefit claimants in debt in London”:

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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