WE RETURN FROM OUR HOLIDAYS to a crisis on every front - economic, political, constitutional and environmental. Prepare for turbulence!
Economists are now speculating about the onset of a new global recession. But, in the UK, it’s a certainty. The government’s own figures say a no-deal Brexit could wipe 2% off GDP. Longer term, estimates suggest it could cut Britain’s output by up to 8% from what it would have been over the next decade. A tumbling pound, rising inflation and negative growth in real wages are already upon us. Foreign investment in the UK could fall by 20% and Britain’s credit rating will be downgraded. A full summary of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on medicines, industry, fishing, farming and science is detailed in this issue. Already some large wholesalers are talking about rationing their customers.
The government’s focus on Brexit means that critical social issues are not being addressed. Some 30% of children live in poverty. Over 200,000 children are homeless, many living in shipping containers or worse. The Tories’ benefit reforms are the cause of much of this distress yet, rather than fixing the problems, the government is more focused on suppressing the evidence. New contracts between the Department for Work and Pensions and Citizen’s Advice contain gagging clauses, preventing the latter from speaking out. NHS staff have been similarly silenced from talking about the impact of Brexit.
Meanwhile a new parliamentary report states that our whole system of local government is broken, with cash-strapped councils imposing sky-rocketing charges for basic services, social care on the brink of collapse and the whole regressive council tax system not fit for purpose.
From a million to one possibility - the words of Boris Johnson - a no-deal Brexit now looks the most likely scenario. The government has announced its intention to scrap freedom of movement for EU citizens from 1st November, the most fundamental change in UK borders in generations.
EU nationals will now become subject to the hostile environment while UK citizens living in Europe will also lose their rights. The legal status of millions of people will change overnight, placing some of the most vulnerable migrants in danger of deportation. These proposals will dwarf the Windrush scandal, Diane Abbott warned. Jeremy Corbyn called it “Windrush on steroids”.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s contempt for the Irish peace process is demonstrated by his unbending call to scrap the Irish backstop. The government seems hellbent on a course of orchestrated chaos, where the disorientation created would mask some of the most unpalatable outcomes - the designation of Britain as a tax haven for the super-rich, sweetheart deals with Trump that would further jeopardise our public services and a shifting of the cost of the crisis onto the backs of working people amid a nationalist fervour and much talk of the Dunkirk spirit.
Without a majority for a no-deal in Parliament, Johnson may seek other means to push it through, provoking a constitutional crisis. But much of his first month in office indicates that he is also electioneering - note the populist touches like more stop and search and a much hyped spending splurge - although the announcement of a new £1bn for the NHS turns out not to be new after all. In his casual approach to the truth and in the hard right team Johnson has assembled, there is a strong resemblance to the Trump playbook.
The government has no mandate for a no-deal Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn was quite right to call for cross-party support for a vote of no-confidence and for a Corbyn-led caretaker government to stop a no-deal. The Lib Dems showed their true (blue) colours when they asked instead for a government led by Tory has-been Ken Clarke, who actually voted for May’s rotten Brexit deal!
Labour’s position is clear, as Corbyn outlined in his Corby speech: “If there is a general election this autumn, Labour will commit to holding a public vote, to give voters the final say with credible options for both sides including the option to remain.” With the economy about to hit the buffers and a potential constitutional crisis looming, Britain is set for a turbulent autumn. We should learn from the millions of activists, with school students to the fore, who are taking part in the global climate strike in September and be ready to take to the streets to defend our interests against this unelected government of the rich.