Tag Archives: Kingdom

The Tories are running scared into the local elections – and scared Tories are DANGEROUS Tories

Face of fear: Boris Johnson’s time is running out. The local elections will show him just how short that time may be. How far is he prepared to go to hold on to power?

Enjoy this video by Richard Murphy (I did):

Yes – Tory policies are going very badly, and the propaganda machine won’t be able to hide that from the majority of us when those failures hit our quality of life.

Brexit has screwed our businesses.

Covid-19 isn’t over – there could be another wave by July (possibly fuelled by variant strains that have bred in the gap between vaccination doses).

The Conservative government is rife with corruption.

And nationalism is on the rise in Wales and Scotland, while Northern Ireland is on fire because Unionists have realised that they have been sold out by the Westminster government and their own DUP politicians who supported the Tories during Theresa May’s ministry.

What’s Boris Johnson’s response?

He’s provoking people. He’s trying to blame those who oppose as if they are the provocateurs.

Through his ‘identity politics’ process of calling out those he describes as “woke”, who he is therefore chastising for their commitment to equality on a range of grounds… he is trying to provoke [them] to attack him.

That is standard right-wing … fascist policy.

Murphy’s conclusion is accurate, too, I think:

They know that their policies are failing so all they can do is use blunt force to try to maintain their position in office.

… Like the fascists they are.

Hence the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that proposes draconian new powers for the police, who are to be used as political tools, putting down any opposition to Tory dictatorship. And to ensure that these powers are exercised, what do the Tories do?

They are provoking crowds; they are seeking riots.

Because then they can point at the rioters, and at the peaceful people who agree with the reasons for rioting, and claim that they are the enemy.

Toryism is about “othering”. It is about dividing us and setting us against each other, so we fail to act against our real enemy: them.

It is encapsulated in the story about the Tory, the worker and the immigrant:

A Tory, a worker, and an immigrant are sitting at a table with 20 biscuits. The banker takes 19 biscuits, turns to the worker and says: “Watch out, that immigrant is going to take your cookie away.”

Murphy’s last point is chilling:

They’re not sure they want to go without a fight and we don’t know how tough that fight is going to be.

This Writer reckons it will be very tough.

Tories don’t mind spilling the blood of poor people. In fact, they delight in it. When they send the police to break up protest demonstrations, they see it as poor people fighting among themselves. It’s a huge jolly for them.

In the past, Tories have always known when to give up. They’ve recognised the signs and withdrawn before events escalated too far. That’s why the UK has never had a popular uprising or revolution like those in France, Russia, or China, to name a few other countries.

But the current Tory leadership isn’t like those old statespeople. Boris Johnson wants to hold on to power and will do anything to keep it.

I wonder what we’ll be prepared to do when the time comes to take it away from him.

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Record annual slump for UK economy in 2020 – but should Johnson be slammed for it?

Johnson’s blunders: he made promise after promise – and mistake after mistake. And the UK’s economy suffered.

Yes he should, although it may have seemed a tricky one to call.

The simple fact is that the UK’s economy was bound to suffer in the year of Covid-19.

Business – and school – closures were inevitable. Even though Johnson didn’t want to do it, eventually he had to.

And that’s part of the reason he should be blamed: he had to be dragged into every correct decision he made – and usually too late to prevent some harm from being done.

His lockdowns were only ever partial (so not really lockdowns at all), and he pulled out of them too early.

We recently learned that he ignored scientific advice to do so.

He diverted commercial contracts connected with tackling the virus away from experts in order to hand billions of pounds to friends of the Conservative Party who knew little or nothing about the work they were being asked to do.

Test and trace work, to quote a much-criticised example, suffered badly because he put an ex-jockey in charge, who didn’t realise that a virus can mutate – something that seven-year-old children read in school textbooks.

As a result of all this, the pandemic affected the UK far more than it might otherwise have, and the economic effect was worse, as we can see:

The UK economy shrank by a record 9.9% last year as coronavirus restrictions hit output, official figures show.

The contraction in 2020 “was more than twice as much as the previous largest annual fall on record”, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Muddying the issue is the fact that previous governments had dismantled the UK’s ability to cope with a pandemic infection over many years. But Boris Johnson was part of some of those governments, so he still can’t dodge some of the responsibility.

And, because it is a deadly infection, we don’t know how many people were likely to have been infected – or died – if Johnson had acted more responsibly… or indeed if he hadn’t bothered to do anything at all.

So we don’t know what would have happened in either a worst- or best-case scenario.

So we are left with the knowledge that the economy was going to suffer in 2020, no matter what.

But Johnson did not act fast enough to minimise the damage – and his choices were either wrong or, on the rare occasions they were right, delayed.

We don’t know how badly the economy would have been affected in different circumstances.

But it’s a fair bet that it would have fared better if Johnson’s choices had been wiser.

Source: UK economy suffered record annual slump in 2020 – BBC News

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In London’s mayoral race, UKIP pins its hopes on Gammons

Once again, the UK Independence Party has made itself the butt of the joke.

You’ll be familiar with the expression “gammon”, meaning “a middle-aged or older white man with conservative, traditionalist views, stereotypically characterized as having a red or flushed complexion”. It has been linked with supporters of UKIP for many years.

Today (January 15) we all discovered the name of the party’s candidate in the London mayoral election… and the fun began:

We all had a few giggles about the coincidence:

But the real punchline is the fact that this is not the first time UKIP has been ham-strung (sorry) by an unfortunately-resonating name:

This Writer, for one, is grateful to Mr Gammons.

He has brightened up an otherwise miserable day.

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A week after Brexit, how are the UK and the EU getting on? Not very well, it seems

I was going to leave the headline as a rhetorical question but too many people would have tried to answer without reading the article.

And who can blame them? It all seems a nasty mess at the moment. But are these really only teething problems?

Here comes the list:

The UK and the EU are heading towards a confrontation over financial services after trading in £6 billion worth of euro-dominated shares started moving to European continental stock exchanges in Amsterdam and Paris.

UK financial service providers and banks have lost the so-called passport that gave them the right to operate without restrictions throughout the EU, and now depend on unilateral decisions from European authorities to extend them an “equivalence” based on regulatory convergence, sector by sector.

Bank of England boss Andrew Bailey has said the UK should not become a so-called “rule taker” by mimicking EU regulations just for the sake of obtaining an access to European markets.

To This Writer’s uncultured eye, he seems to be saying we should lose a lot of business. Or is he he suggesting that trade will come back to the UK if businesses see an advantage in trading outside EU regulations?

This is not likely to sort itself out for several years.

Marks & Spencer has discovered holes in the so-called “zero tariff” trade deal with the EU that means its Percy Pig sweets – manufactured in Germany, transported to the UK, and then re-exported to other countries like Ireland – would face taxation and bureaucratic “red tape” costs.

The firm has already dropped hundreds of products, including chocolate fudge pudding and sweet and sour chicken, from its Northern Ireland stores after it saw competitors’ lorries barred from travelling between the mainland and Northern Ireland.

John Lewis has scrapped deliveries of its products to EU countries (although the firm says this is because of a business decision to concentrate on the UK). Debenhams and Fortnum & Masons have also suspended deliveries to Ireland and the EU respectively, blaming uncertainty over post-Brexit trading rules.

Scottish seafood firms are already facing financial difficulty as new post-Brexit rules demand that every single box has to be offloaded from lorries, opened and checked by vets before leaving Scotland – creating five-hour delays per lorry.

And overseas customers are cancelling orders – putting the £1 billion-per-year business in jeopardy.

Expect much more of the same in the future.

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Four dead after Trump provokes US Capitol riot – and the UK Tories are taking notes

Buddies: Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. Johnson has refused to condemn Trump’s involvement in the US Capitol riot; indeed, he was probably too busy taking notes.

It has been claimed that what happens in the United States is brought to the UK several years later.

With that in mind, watch this clip of Priti Patel refusing to condemn Donald Trump for provoking a riot in Washington DC yesterday:

UK prime minister Boris Johnson also condemned the riots but stopped short of criticising Trump:

The reason? They’re taking notes.

Trump has spent the last two months protesting against the result of last November’s presidential election, which he lost decisively to Democrat Joe Biden.

He triggered a scandal earlier in the week when it was revealed that he had engaged Georgia’s (Republican) Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in an hour-long telephone conversation in which he appealed for his colleague to “find” 11,780 votes – one more than the 11,779 majority that Biden achieved in that state.

This is electoral fraud and Raffensperger wouldn’t have it.

Trump went on to spout a series of conspiracy theories that (it has been claimed) far-right internet sites have been promoting – including that his opponents tampered with voting machines in the state. His claims were greeted with a blunt “no” from the leading lawyer on Raffensperger’s team.

The revelation was greeted as a scandal bigger than Watergate. The only reason Trump wasn’t facing impeachment after the recording of his call was published by the Washington Post is that unlike Richard Nixon, his own party leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives are not willing to condemn him.

Then came the riot.

Congress was due to meet yesterday (January 6) for a purely ceremonial event to confirm Biden’s election victory – but Trump wasn’t having it.

He tweeted a call for his supporters to attend and protest, appealing for them to “stop the steal”.

Events escalated out of control into a riot in which members of the US public stormed the Capitol, and now four people are dead.

One, unofficially named as San Diego-area US Air Force veteran and Trump supporter Ashli Babbit, was part of a group that forced entry into the House room while it was still in session. They were confronted by plain-clothes police officers, one of whom pulled out a weapon and fired it. She was rushed to hospital where she was later proclaimed dead.

Another woman and two men died as a result of “medical emergencies”, officials said, without giving details. At least 14 members of the police were also injured.

Trump has not apologised for instigating the riot or for the deaths to which it led. He is still denying the legitimacy of the election result but has agreed to an “orderly transition” of the presidency to Biden.

Add it all up and it amounts to a shocking degeneration and indictment against Trump in the last days of his presidency.

And the silence from the UK’s government is equally appalling.

But then, we should remember that Boris Johnson’s Conservative government has been a wholehearted Trump supporter – with Johnson himself even suggesting the soon-to-be ex-president should receive the Nobel Peace Prize:

But let’s not restrict this to Johnson (and Patel, above). Plenty of other UK political figures have supported Trump:

That is why I feel the need to amplify these comments:

Think about it – because you can be sure Johnson and his planners are.

They’ll be looking at what happened and how it happened, and working out how they can create the same situation in the UK and spin it to make them look good.

Then they will have a little ace-in-the-hole if their policies look like creating civil unrest in the future.

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Don’t be fooled: Johnson’s Brexit deal is a DISASTER for the UK

Will he call it the “Christmas Eve Agreement” after the day it was reached, or the “New Year’s Eve Agreement” after the day it will be ratified?

Either way, Boris Johnson will try to give his dire Brexit deal a legitimacy it does not deserve by creating an association in our minds with the Good Friday Agreement, which brought huge benefits to the people of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

His Brexit deal does no such thing.

Here’s the reason:

It’s a simple truth, but one that will bear repetition – many times, because Johnson will be pushing his lie for all he’s worth.

While there was certainly much to criticise about the European Union’s demands on the UK when we were a member state, our ability to trade frictionlessly with every other state on the bloc was not part of that and the deal must be, by definition, a huge step backwards.

Just getting to it cost us – that’s you and me, the UK taxpayers, not the Brexiteer businesspeople who sequester their cash in tax havens to avoid being affected, remember – a huge amount of money that the nation could ill afford to lose.

Sadly, not all of us will realise this because they’ll be tranquillised by the Tory-lickspittle press. But some of us do know what it means:

Johnson must know that he can’t fool all the people, all the time – and with trade, which is happening all the time, he must know that people are going to feel the adverse effects of his deal very quickly.

So the smart money reckons he will quit very soon, having achieved what he set out to do:

Other responses have been more satirical. Let’s have a read and a giggle before we get on to the hard facts:

Hm.

Johnson has described the deal as his Christmas present to the UK. Oh dear…

… and now there’s a big war of words about what it all means:

But one thing is for sure:

So, what’s actually in the deal?

Perhaps before we go into the details, we should consider the attitudes adopted by the different sides:

If you enjoyed that bit of Johnsonism, you’d better hope it sustains you when the hardships start to bite.

Here’s a document that summarises the changes in the new, 1,200-page (plus 800 pages of appendices) agreement:

I’ll write them out below and we’ll see what people have had to say about them so far:

Free movement of people

Border checks will be re-imposed between the UK and the EU nations.

Restrictions will be re-imposed on pets travelling between the UK and EU.

Roaming charges will be re-imposed.

Visa-free travel between the UK and EU beyond 90 days’ duration will end.

But visa-free travel up to 90 days may continue. It is the only aspect of this subject heading that remains unchanged.

Work, residence and study in another EU country are now subject to restrictions particular to the new agreement – and they are already controversial, as we shall see shortly.

Trade in goods

Under the new agreement, frictionless trade between the UK and the EU is ended.

Oh, there will be no tariffs or quotas – but the whole purposes of the 2,000-page document is to create barriers that did not exist before January 1, 2021.

The UK will no longer benefit from any of the EU’s international agreements.

Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures – to protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, or contaminants – will be re-imposed. It will be interesting to see what they reveal (although let us hope that the find nothing untoward from the UK).

All other matters under this heading will be subject to new bureaucratic procedures – red tape – under the new agreement. Remember years ago, when David Cameron announced a “bonfire of red tape”? It created a huge number of problems as it turned out that those measures were actually necessary – and now Cameron (who demanded the EU referendum) is responsible for much, much more of it:

New customs formalities.

New rules of origin procedures that will check where parts come from.

A new fisheries agreement.

Trade in services

The former financial services passport is abolished.

And there will be no easy recognition of professional qualifications.

That creates more red tape!

Air transport

UK air traffic will no longer be free to travel anywhere within the single aviation area.

And the so-called “fifth freedom” for extra-EU air cargo will be withdrawn from the UK, replaced with new rules in the Brexit deal.

More red tape!

Road transport

The UK is out of the single internal transport market for hauliers. Truckers will need import and export declarations, security declarations and other paperwork for their shipments. New infrastructure is being built at ports to deal with queues and to check loads.

Cross-trade operations will be subject to even more red tape!

Energy

The UK will no longer be part of the single internal energy market.

And energy trading platforms will be subject to yet more red tape!

Access to EU programmes

The UK is out of Erasmus (what’s Erasmus? You’re about to find out!) along with NextGenerationEU and SURE. It will be shut out of the Galileo encrypted military signal.

Did you know the UK was part of any of that?

And access to Horizon Europe (it’s the the European Union’s future framework programme on research and innovation (R&I) for 2021-2027) will be subjected to even more red tape!

There’s another part of this which puts a sinister aspect on the deal, reminiscent of the TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that was stopped because of a “dispute settlement” process that would have given businesses more power than governments.

The UK-EU trade deal includes a dispute settlement mechanism, and both sides will have the right to slap tariffs on the other unilaterally to protect against unfair competition. EU businesses will be able to restrict those in the UK.

That’s a lot of red tape!

It seems the Brexit deal also establishes an organisation for policing the agreements. The joint partnership council has 19 sub-committees and seven working groups. That’s in addition to a Parliamentary partnership assembly, a civil society forum and domestic advisory groups.

I tend to agree with Briefcase Michael’s sarcastic comment: “So it’s goodbye to all that EU bureaucracy!”

And I especially agree with Carole Hawkins who described these red-tape groups as: “Hot air talking shops which will achieve diddly squat as always.”

It might be informative to examine the deal in comparison with what was promised by the organisation Vote Leave, which was the primary motivating force that encouraged more than 17 million UK citizens to support Brexit.

Bear in mind that Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings were the figurehead and mastermind behind Vote Leave, and they ended up running the UK together after the December 2019 general election.

So did they make sure they achieved everything they promised?

That failed comedy double-act? Not a chance!

The website Politico ran an article comparing the bold promises with the bare realities. It listed them as follows:

1. Trade with the EU will be tariff-free and involve minimal bureaucracy

The deal is tariff free for now. But it comes with numerous strings attached and significant bureaucracy. Vote Leave also promised that businesses that do not trade with the single market will not need to follow single market rules… At the very least, Northern Ireland will have to follow single market rules to ensure its land border with Ireland will remain open.

2. Northern Ireland border ‘absolutely unchanged’

The border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is changing. There will be customs procedures for goods crossing the Irish Sea because Northern Ireland will have access to the EU customs union while remaining in the U.K. customs union. That will involve paperwork checks and border control posts (though not physically at the border) to undertake physical checks on some plant and animal products.

3. End supremacy of EU law and the EU’s Court of Justice

Northern Ireland will remain subject to EU customs union and single market rules, which will be overseen by the Court of Justice. So it would be wrong to suggest the entire U.K. will not be subject to judgments from the court.

4. Take back control on immigration and asylum, and cut migration to the tens of thousands

it is still unlikely that the U.K. will cut immigration to the tens of thousands, as Michael Gove promised Brexit would allow it to do.

5. Britain will take back control of its fisheries

Johnson said he wanted talks on EU fishing access to U.K. waters to take place annually… There is a process to get there. It involves a five-and-a-half-year transition, during which the EU will have full access, but the quantity of fish the U.K. can take out of shared waters will increase. Negotiations would be annual after that, and the EU will be able to retaliate with tariffs if the U.K. refuses to grant it access. So it depends on the definition of “control.” The important detail is exactly how much more fish the U.K. will get to take out of shared waters across 100 or so stocks.

6. £350M for the NHS instead of being sent to Brussels

The U.K. net contribution to the EU budget was more like £230 million a week, but Britain has had to spend huge sums on the divorce bill and on preparations for Brexit. The NHS did get a funding boost – but this isn’t as a result of the EU departure.

7. New trade deals, and access to a European trading zone ‘from Iceland to Russia’

The U.K. has so far failed to sign a single brand new trade deal that it did not have as part of EU membership. The U.K. has agreed a tariff-free, quota-free deal, but the customs barriers have increased, it is still subject to numerous EU conditions, and there are still big gaps on services — for example, many business travelers will need work visas. Britain still needs to lock in trading terms for EFTA states Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, and complete a free trade agreement with Turkey.

8. Continue cooperating on security issues and counter-terrorism

Both sides will continue to cooperate on security and counter-terrorism — but … the U.K. will no longer have direct, real-time access to EU security databases, such as on passenger records, criminal records, DNA and fingerprints. The deal allows for “ambitious and timely arrangements” to share such data, according to an EU document. The U.K. will continue to observe the European Convention on Human Rights, and could see law enforcement and judicial cooperation cut off if it fails to do so. It will also have to adhere to strict data standards. There will be “cooperation” between Europol and Eurojust, but that will amount to nothing more than what other third countries get when dealing with the EU. However, in other areas, such as the extradition of criminals, the cooperation will be closer than with third countries.

9. Financial protection for farmers who get cash from Brussels

The government will implement a new regime in the years to 2025 that will change the rules for funding farmers in England. Cash will be tied not to the amount of land, as in the EU system, but to whether that land is used for public good. It is unclear whether, in the long run, farmers stand to receive the same amount of money as they do now, as Vote Leave promised.

10. Continued participation in EU science research schemes, deeper cooperation on scientific collaboration, plus increased funding for science

The U.K. is retaining membership of the Horizon Europe program, under which EU states pool funding for science projects. It will also continue to participate in the Euratom Research and Training program, the Copernicus space program and others.

11. Wages will be higher

Even government economic forecasters reckon a deal with the EU will hit UK GDP compared with retaining membership. Some wages in some sectors might increase (customs officials?) but others might even lose their jobs.

12. The union will be stronger

In recent months, repeated polls have shown that Scotland would vote for independence if given another referendum, with Brexit a particular grievance for Scottish National Party voters. The debate is turning to whether Johnson will be able to hold off on granting one if the SNP wins big in Scottish elections in 2021.

Welsh nationalism is on the rise as a result of Johnson’s cack-handed Brexit negotiations, and also due to his failure to control Covid-19. And who can doubt that Northern Ireland will come closer to the Irish Republic after this?

13. Cut VAT on energy bills to save the average household £64 a year

Outside the EU [the UK] can. But Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who also backed Brexit, has not announced that the government will make the change. The promise remains outstanding.

14. Scrap VAT on sanitary products

The EU has long insisted it will scrap VAT on sanitary products but is still yet to do so. Sunak announced in his March budget that it would be scrapped in the U.K. Johnson won a concession from Brussels when he struck the Withdrawal Agreement that the so-called “tampon tax” would not apply to Northern Ireland if it remains in the customs union, which it will. So that’s a checkpoint for Vote Leave.

15. The new treaty should be ready within two years and before the next election (which was May 2020)

Well…

For a snapshot of the way people have responded on particular issues, let’s consider the Erasmus scheme.

Erasmus is an exchange programme that allows UK students to study and work across Europe. More than half the UK students abroad are there as part of the Erasmus scheme.

But Boris Johnson has ended the UK’s involvement in it – after promising to Parliament that this would not happen:

Johnson says he is replacing Erasmus with a new scheme called Turing – after Bletchley Park Omega device solver Alan. Also named after Turing is the test to distinguish human beings from artificial devices created to fake it. One gets the impression Johnson would fail:

Given all of the above, what is one supposed to think of this deal that Boris Johnson claims is so good?

Earlier this month This Site published a piece asking whether Johnson became the figurehead for the Brexit campaign purely to stop the European Union clamping down on the City and its role in money laundering and financial crime across the globe. Was it his intention to preserve the City of London as the financial crime centre of the world’s economy?

What do you think?

Personally, I’m wondering if it’s the first time in history a nation has been asked to celebrate spending a huge amount of time and money on a plan to waste even more time and money – with absolutely no profit in it for us.

What was the point?

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Former PM rips into Internal Market Bill: ‘So much for global Britain’

What a face: Theresa May’s expression shows exactly how she feels about Boris Johnson’s idiotic, selfish and destructive Internal Markets Bill.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May has made a devastating intervention on her successor’s Internal Market Bill, attacking the reasons it has been drafted and its effect on the integrity of the United Kingdom, and questioning whether any other country will trust the UK again.

In a debate on the Bill on Monday afternoon (September 21), she raised several important questions, starting with this:

Clauses 41-45 of the Bill refer to customs arrangements in Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson signed the EU Withdrawal Agreement in January, accepting that NI would remain under EU tariffs and effectively placing a customs border in the middle of the Irish Sea. Now he wants to renege on that.

Mrs May was critical:

And she makes an excellent point.

Her final point was better still – that the circumstances in which the UK chooses to break international law won’t matter to people in other countries; they’ll only see that the UK has broken international law and won’t want anything to do with a rogue state of that kind:

Her conclusion was a devastating blow – not only to the Internal Markets Bill but to her successor, Boris Johnson: “This is a country that upholds the rule of law. That is one of the things that makes us great; it is one of our characteristics… yet we are being asked to tear up that principle and throw away that value. Why? I can only see, on the face of it, that it is because the Government did not really understand what they were signing up to when they signed the withdrawal agreement.

“Frankly, I find it difficult to understand how any Minister can go through the Lobby to support these clauses.

“I consider that… the Government are acting recklessly and irresponsibly, with no thought to the long-term impact on the United Kingdom’s standing in the world. It will lead to untold damage to the United Kingdom’s reputation and puts its future at risk.”

Wow.

It won’t make any difference, of course.

If Boris Johnson was able to gull more than 300 Tory MPs into voting for his Withdrawal Agreement in January, and then to vote against it in September, then the word of a former prime minister won’t stop them doing whatever he wants.

They would probably shoot themselves through the lung if he told them to.

Effectively, that is exactly what they are doing – and the rest of us, too.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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US Congress threatens to pull out of #freetrade deal if UK undermines #GoodFridayAgreement

Partners? Dominic Raab is in the United States, where he has been meeting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But the threat to the Good Friday Agreement posed by the Tory government’s Internal Market Bill means they may not see eye-to-eye.

This is awkward for Boris Johnson.

The US Congress – or at least members of it – is threatening to withdraw from any free trade deal with the UK if Boris Johnson’s Internal Market Bill undermines the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland.

This is a body blow to Johnson, who has claimed that the Bill is vitally important even though it very clearly breaks international law by shattering treaty agreements with the EU and in NI.

According to the BBC:

US Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week said there would be no UK-US trade deal if the Good Friday Agreement was undermined.

Ms Pelosi said if the UK broke international law and Brexit undermined the Good Friday Agreement – the Northern Ireland peace deal – there would be “absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress”.

On Tuesday, four senior congressmen also issued a similar warning, saying a UK-US trade deal would be blocked if the UK failed to preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement.

In a letter to Mr Johnson, the four congressmen said the plans to give ministers powers to override part of the UK’s exit agreement – designed to avoid a hard Irish border – could have “disastrous consequences for the Good Friday Agreement and broader process to maintain peace on the island of Ireland”.

“We therefore urge you to abandon any and all legally questionable and unfair efforts to flout the Northern Ireland protocol of the withdrawal agreement and look to ensure that Brexit negotiations do not undermine the decades of progress to bring peace to Northern Ireland,” the letter added.

The letter was signed by Democratic congressmen Eliot Engel, Richard Neal, and Bill Keating, who all chair committees in the US House of Representatives, as well as Republican Congressman Peter King.

Downing Street has said the GFA will be upheld “in all circumstances” but the problem is that Johnson has a record of saying one thing and doing the opposite.

The row over the Internal Market Bill is because it contradicts the EU Withdrawal Agreement that Johnson himself signed in January after expelling 21 Tory MPs for failing to support him.

He simply cannot be trusted; he will say anything he likes to get whatever he wants at a particular time.

The warning from Congress underlines fears that no other nation will want to do a deal with a country that breaks international law.

The Americans would be better-advised to pull out of any deal now.

They might as well be negotiating with a spoilt child.

Source: Brexit: Dominic Raab seeks to reassure US politicians over Brexit bill – BBC News

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Statistics supremo slams misleading Tory Covid-19 test figures

Next time you watch a news report showing Tory statistics on the number of Covid-19 tests published out per day, bear in mind that the numbers are deliberately wrong – and that comes from the highest authority in the United Kingdom.

The Tories are hiding the facts about Covid-19 testing by blurring their definition of  test, in order to maximise the number of tests they can report. This comes from Sir David Norgrove, chair of the UK Statistics Authority.

This Writer has corresponded with the UKSA on several previous occasions and you can take it from me: if the UKSA is saying something, you can be sure it is right.

He’s saying the way the Tories present their results is deliberately obstructing the purpose for which they are supposed to be carried out.

“Statistics on testing perhaps serve two main purposes,” he writes.

“The first is to help us understand the epidemic, alongside the ONS survey, showing us how many people are infected, or not, and their relevant characteristics.

“The second purpose is to help manage the test programme, to ensure there are enough tests, that they are carried out or sent where they are needed and that they are being used as effectively as possible. The data should tell the public how effectively the testing programme is being managed.”

He continues: “The way the data are analysed and presented currently gives them limited value for the first purpose. The aim seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding.

“It is also hard to believe the statistics work to support the testing programme itself.”

Of course the obvious problem gets an airing: “The headline total of tests adds together the tests carried out with tests posted out… There are no data on how many of the tests posted out are in fact then successfully completed.”

And this has also been brought to public attention: “The notes to the daily slides rightly say that some people may be tested more than once and it has been widely reported that swabs carried out simultaneously on a single patient are counted as multiple tests. But it is not clear from the published data how often that is the case.”

Moving on to the way the tests are presented to the public, Sir David reveals that “this presentation gives an artificially-low impression of the proportion of tests returning a positive diagnosis” – because the number of tests carried out has been artificially inflated, you see.

“More generally the testing figures are presented in a way that is difficult to understand. Many of the key numbers make little sense without recourse to the technical notes which are themselves sometimes hard to follow… Supporting spreadsheets… make it difficult to extract even basic trends.”

Perhaps crucially, Sir David moves on to criticise information that is omitted from test reports: “How many people in what circumstances are infected? Where do they live?

“Test results should include for example key types of employment (e.g. medical staff, care staff), age, sex and location (by geography and place, such as care homes).”

The implication is clear: figures derived from the testing programme are no good at all.

And Sir David lays down a serious warning about the new “Test and Trace” scheme: “Statistics will need to be capable of being related to the wider testing data and readily understood by the public, through for example population-adjusted maps of hotspots.

“The testing statistics still fall well short of… expectations. It is not surprising that, given their inadequacy, data on testing are so widely criticised and often mistrusted.

Here’s Sir David’s letter:

The letter has prompted a strong response – including from some former Conservatives:

Will the Tories pay attention?

I think they probably will.

This is criticism from an incorruptible authority on statistics and, should an inquiry take place into government handling of Covid-19 (and I think one will), the Tories will need the UK Statistics Authority on their side.

If they don’t get that support, then they’ll be in serious trouble.

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Are food banks now the UK’s ONLY growth industry?

This graph is nearly three years out of date. If anybody can provide a new version, please feel free to send it in via the comment column.

If you want to know why food banks have proliferated, look to the United States.

That’s where the Conservative Party adopted the policies that lead to food banks; that’s why they have become the UK’s only growth industry.

The policy, adopted by former President George W Bush, was known as ‘starving the beast’, and involved tax breaks for the very rich, creating a deficit in the US Treasury, which made it possible for him to claim public services were costing too much – and then cut public services.

Result: Instant destitution for people who relied on those public services – and the rise of foodbanks.

As in the US, so has it been in the UK.

I warned you about this, years ago.

When austerity was in its infancy in the UK a few years ago and I made my first visit to food banks around the country, the people queueing for help expressed a common anxiety: that this might become the “new normal”. Everyone hoped it wouldn’t yet here we are, in the summer of 2017, and food banks are now ubiquitous. Legions of citizens, including tens of thousands of children, now rely on these stopgap facilities to meet basic nutritional needs. And a recent report alarmingly predicts that their use is likely to rise with the impact of policies such as benefit freezes and the roll out of universal credit. To see how this has happened we need only to look across the Atlantic.

The UK’s journey down the road of dismantling its welfare state and blaming the needy follows closely in the footsteps of the American system and the narrative that has shaped it. While the richest are awarded lavish tax cuts, millions of people are rendered desperate and destitute, and inequality is cemented. This is indeed the “new normal”.

Source: Food poverty is the ‘new normal’ in the UK. We adopted it from the States | Society | The Guardian


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