Saturday, 4 February 2017

Stop Brexit! Brexit means Trump!

This is an updated version of a blog I submitted to the Huffington Post a week ago. If they publish the original blog now, it will already be out of date, the disastrous Article 50 vote having taken place, and with the events that have occurred demonstrating beyond doubt the  accelerating danger posed by Trump.

If there is any reason at all to put an immediate halt to Brexit, it is President Trump’s first week in office, culminating in Prime Minister Theresa May’s desperate visit to be the first leader to swear fealty – and then her inexcusable refusal to condemn the so-called Muslim Ban.

May scrambled in Farage’s fetid footsteps, obviously keen not to lose any of the momentum or populist support she has gained since adopting most of UKIP’s far right policies.

Only hours before, Trump became the only President in living memory to publicly endorse the use of torture. And hours later, on Holocaust Memorial Day of all days, he signed the Refugee Ban and initiated a policy now being referred to as the Muslim Ban.  Citing 9/11 three times, he banned visa applications and re-entry from a number of middle-eastern countries – though markedly ignoring the countries where the 9/11 bombers actually originated.

But then of course, Trump has substantial business interests in those countries.

Refugees in transit that landed after the edict and US citizens returning from holidays or business trips abroad were detained at their point of entry and denied access to legal representation. Foreign students and US citizens were warned by their universities and employers not to leave the country in case they are not allowed to return.

These actions, breaking treaties and showing no respect for international law, mean that the United States already meets the definition of ‘rogue state’.

But in addition to these acts of inhumanity and xenophobia, Trump is acting entirely irrationally. His first actions were to sanction the parks service for posting photos that showed the actual size of his inauguration crowd. His press officer was made told to go in front of the press and deliver demonstrable lies – something that was later referred to by one Trump’s staff to be ‘alternative facts’. After being challenged on his repeated lie that millions of illegal votes were cast in the election – this being the reason why he lost the popular vote – Trump announced that he would initiate a federal investigation. And being told in no uncertain terms that his Mexican wall would not be paid for by Mexico, and the Mexican president cancelled his state visit, Trump immediately announced a 20% tariff on all Mexican imports.

May has finally admitted that UK would have no chance of remaining in the EU single market and that we would also be withdrawing from the customs union. Both of these actions will result in the UK losing tens of thousands of jobs, rising prices - inevitably pushing more people into poverty. The loss in income tax revenue from the banking jobs already announced will be far more than the oft-quoted £350m a week.

The government consistently has said that it will not reveal what its post-brexit plans are, as it wants to keep its cards close to its chest. But we have nothing left to offer – our hand is already face up on the table.

In this context, May went cap in hand to Trump, refusing to rule out that the NHS would now be up for grabs – this to a US administration hell-bent on removing affordable healthcare from millions of its own citizens simply in order to optimize profits for the private medical and insurance corporations that supported Trump’s election.  And before slicing up the NHS for sale, it means that even our long-taken-for-granted food and industrial safety standards may be threatened.  Our self-imposed isolation from Europe pushes the UK into depending on whatever crumbs the protectionist Trump regime chooses to throw in our direction.

May went from Trump to Erdogan in Turkey, to sell weapons to a regime that will probably use them on its own Kurdish population. Whilst there, she shockingly refused three times to condemn Trump’s actions, despite the effect it was already having on UK citizens and residents.  Days later, she went to an EU leader summit in Malta to ‘act as a bridge’ between Trump and the EU, boasting that she had won his guarantee to meet his treaty obligations to NATO. They dismissed her, the Lithuanian prime minister saying that they didn’t need May to be a bridge when they had Twitter.

Instead of throwing ourselves at the feet of the Great Dictator, we should be distancing ourselves, uniting as closely as possible with the rest of Europe in the face of this very real threat. We should be looking at the possibility of diplomatic sanctions, not deals. This is important not just for our national security and the benefit of the poorest of our citizens, but to prevent the normalization of the racism and discrimination that Trump’s policies will inevitably bring with it, not only to the US but to our society as well.

This visit has already done great damage to our standing internationally. The Murdoch press and our state broadcaster, the BBC, might try to romanticize the ‘special relationship’, but the reaction in the foreign press is not being reported domestically. Even the US press has made disparaging comments about the UK and the PM in the wake of the visit.

So rather than Corbyn setting a three-line-whip for Brexit (with no sense of the irony involved, him being a notorious rebel against such measures in the past), he should have listened to his MPs and what is fast becoming a majority of the people who actually voted in the referendum in the first place. The people who will suffer most because of Brexit, the normalization of Trump and increased economic dependence on the US are the minorities, the poorest and most vulnerable in our society – the very people that Corbyn claims to represent.

One of the big slogans of the brexit campaign was ‘take back control’ - though this week they somewhat hypocritically protested the high court re-affirming the primacy of parliament. Did the brexiters campaign to simply hand executive control to an unelected PM fully beholden to Donald Trump – where we have no say, no control, no rights and no protections?

If there was any time that we needed the support and status imparted by our membership of the EU, it is right now.

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