After the United Kingdom has left the European Union, it could very well be that English will cease to be an official language for the European Union, or so Danuta Hübner, head of the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, warned in a press conference. She explained that, “every EU country has the right to notify one official language. The Irish have Gaelic and the Maltese have notified Maltese, so you only have the UK notifying English.” This would mean that, “if we don’t have the UK, we don’t have English.” Although this might at first seem like a rather extreme measure, when you think about it, it really isn’t.
In the world today, English, in all its variations, occupies an undeniably central place. From the offices of multinational corporations, to university classes and research teams, to local marketplaces and cafes like the one I’m sitting in. In a town in the middle of Denmark, my cafe table numbers Danes, Spaniards, and Germans – guess how we’re communicating?
When it comes to English, communication is precisely the point. English is a means of communication in the globalized world. According to the Harvard Business Review, business today speaks English. Even when a company in Germany is dealing with another German company, there is no guarantee that the employees will be German speakers. If you visit an industrial farm in Denmark, the working language isn’t Danish – it’s English. The presence and importance of English as the working language globally is so apparent thatfour out of five Europeans consider English the language worth learning for the future. English today is not the property of its native speakers, it is the lingua franca of the world. English transcends cultures and borders, and the assertion that the EU should drop English as one of its working languages is therefore highly problematic.
The Dublin Regulation is a law concerning European Union Member States and asylum seekers. It establishes the Member State that is responsible for the receiving and examination of an application for asylum, and for deciding whether the criteria for asylum have been met by the applicant. It is often explained in the news as the regulation that ensures asylum seekers must apply for asylum in the first EU country they entered. It has been heavily criticized by Hungary and Poland since 2015, with both countries making thinly veiled Eurosceptic remarks about taking power back from the European Union. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles often criticizes the Regulation due to the restrictiveness of the criteria for asylum, the lack of protection it offers asylum seekers and for its failure to take the interests of asylum seekers into account.
Benjamin and Ali Mahammadi are two young men who lived in Sunderland, in the North of England, past Newcastle, on the River Wear and by the sea. These two brothers were actively involved in their Church and Community, taking part in clean-up days, bible class translations, the local radio station and sport events at the University of Sunderland.
Having met the university chaplain and associate priest at Sunderland Minster, Reverend Chris Howson, I can say it is highly likely that a few of their Sunday nights were spent eating a home-cooked meal with Chris, his family and an assortment of Sunderland residents, before getting into a game of charades where anything in the living room could be used as a prop- including other guests.
The boys came from a family of medics and the youngest, Ali, wanted to become a doctor. However mere days after his eighteenth birthday- which had been celebrated with a trip to the Friary in Alnmouth- the brothers went to Middlesbrough to a Home Office Facility as a weekly requirement- and found themselves under arrest.
These two brothers are Iranian asylum seekers who went to the United Kingdom seeking their family, a place where they spoke the primary language and could freely practice their religion.
They spent one night in a police cell in Middlesbrough, an hour and a half from their family and friends in Sunderland and the next day were driven over one hundred miles away to a place in Scotland called Dungavel.
Rev Howson refers to the detention center as “a prison, a terrifying place with clanging steel doors constantly being locked and unlocked by the guards, surrounded high fences and razor wire”. He isn’t alone in his condemnation. In September, a fortnight before the brothers were sent there, Amnesty International Scotland welcomed the news by the UK Immigration Minister that the center would shortly be closed.
However, it was not closed in time to save these two brothers, who, according to Howson, found themselves imprisoned and in severe distress, given medication without explanation which caused vivid nightmares, unable to understand the thick Scottish accents of the guards and sick with fear.
Meanwhile, their community in Sunderland worked hard to find a solution. When their solicitor submitted a one-stop notice on their behalf, it was with many letters of support for the brothers, speaking of the way they had contributed to their community. The local MP wrote to the Home Office, asking for their release and when the brothers were at risk of being flown from Gatwick, the airline who would have transported them was lobbied heavily on social media to prevent them taking part in the deportation.
The aftermath of Brexit saw a rise in hate crime against those who had arrived on British shores any time after the Industrial Revolution and migrants are popular political footballs, to be kicked around as distraction tactics or as means of getting votes.
However, refugees, migrants and asylum seekers are three nouns that don’t even begin to encompass everything Ben and Ali were to their family and friends in Sunderland and all their future potential to contribute to the United Kingdom if they had been given the opportunity to live in freedom and safety.
At the time of writing, Ben and Ali are still in Dungavel Detention Centre.
As jars of Marmite auctioned online for £10,000, following a price dispute between Tesco and Unilever, and parliament locked horns over the right to a debate of Brexit negotiation terms; the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon announced she would instigate another Scottish Independence referendum if the UK was forced to leave the single market, at the Scottish National Party conference.
This would be the second referendum in two years. Scotland voted to remain part of the UK by a 10 per cent margin in September 2014, after a prolonged and intense referendum campaign that ended with the removal of long-time leader of the SNP Alec Salmond. Many UK politicians, Theresa May included, are describing Sturgeon’s announcement of a second referendum draft as a temper tantrum over Brexit.
But – and here’s the thing – this is not the United Kingdom that Scotland signed up for. A core condition that pushed the Scottish vote to reject independence was the security of remaining in the EU. This year, 62 per cent of Scottish voters cast their ballots again to remain an EU member. Now the entire country is faced with the prospect of a hard Brexit: a future that, as they have demonstrated on multiple occasions, they are entirely opposed to.
But despite the blinding frustration of these circumstances, a second referendum is not something Sturgeon is simply pushing out of spite.
“I don’t want Scotland taken out of the single market,” she said in a BBC Radio 4 interview. “The single market is so important to our economy and my worry – and many moderate Tories have this worry – is that by making [Brexit] all about control of borders, Theresa May is making it inevitable that the UK leaves the single market.
“I think the UK would be taking a step off the edge of a cliff to leave the single market and I don’t want Scotland to have to do that too.”
With no time frame on the decision, a second referendum could be slow to arrive, and in many ways those advocating for Scottish independence could be inviting disaster. The crash in global oil prices have caused a Scottish deficit of almost £15bn, almost twice that of the UK last year, so the economy is in no position to break away from the UK. Devolving could mean the creation of tariffs and fixed borders, and a significant degree of political instability while the terms of independence are clarified.
But for all people talk about the uncertainty of the country’s future, and accuse the SNP of fearmongering at a time when we should be pulling together and ‘making the best of it’, the proposal of a second independence referendum makes perfect sense to me. With our sagging pounds, dysfunctional politics, and frankly racist appearance, today’s Britain has become the kind of loser any sensible person would want to break up with.
Sidenote: This week it’s worth taking the time to watch this clip of James O’Brien’s excruciating exchange with a Brexiteer who says he voted to leave so Britain could ‘take control of our laws’ back from the EU – but was then unable to name a single EU law he was looking forward to reclaiming. Painful.
There were a few weeks where it looked as though the Brexit dust was settling. The markets had remained surprisingly robust, defying immediate post-referendum expectations, and aside from Labour party infighting, the political landscape was relatively calm. Then the Conservative party conference arrived, to crush our dreams. Here are five moments of fresh misery the government delivered to the UK electorate:
A Hard Brexit will begin March 2017, with the UK potentially exiting the European Union by 2019
Finally we have a date – Theresa May has announced that she will trigger Article 50 in the Spring of 2017, which means that once negotiations begin we could be looking at a UK exit from the European Union by March of 2019. Her announcement sent sterling into a freefall, plunging the pound to a31-year low, signifying that the markets, along with a significant chunk of the British public, had been secretly hoping that Brexit did not actually mean Brexit.
Border controls will be prioritised over the UK remaining in the single market
One of the first announcements heralding Hard Brexit, is that May’s EU negotiations will be prioritising heightened border controls over the single market.
“Let me be clear,” the prime minister said in her first conference address. “We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice”
Wave goodbye tofreedom of movement and the European Court of Justice, everybody. If there’s one thing you can say about the conference, it’s that it was brutally revealing: after a muddy and reality-defying campaign, it turns out this referendum really was about immigration all along.
Jeremy Hunt is going to stop foreign doctors entering the country, and prevent British ones from leaving
I have a deep, personal hatred of Jeremy Hunt, and his steady dismantling of the NHS. He used his conference spotlight to announce measures that will prevent foreign doctors from coming to the UK to work (cited as ‘reducing British reliance on overseas workers’), andfine medical students who go to work overseas after training in the UK. As of yet, Hunt has shown no signs of confronting the underlying reasons for doctors moving abroad.
Businesses will be asked to list their foreign workers, to prove migrants aren’t stealing jobs
Competition was stiff for the most backward and bigoted policy of the conference, but a special prize must go to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who announced that UK companies would be required to report the number of “international” employees in their workforce, to “prevent migrants from taking jobs [that] British people can do.”
…I don’t even know where to start with this one. The only silver lining is that the backlash from UK organisations has been so severe it looks as though the cabinet will be forced to backpedal.
It’s going to get a lot harder for foreign students to study in the UK
Not content with flushing international diversity out of British business, Rudd additionally announced she would be clamping down on the rights of foreign students to come and study in the UK; introducing two-tier visa rules that will tie the rights of international students to work in the UK, bring their families to the country, and go on to post-study jobs to the quality of their course and university.
“A student immigration system that treats every student and university as equal only punishes those we should want to help,” she said, in one of many spectacularly ill-informed comments. “So our consultation will ask what more can we do to support our best universities – and those that stick to the rules – to attract the best talent … while looking at tougher rules for students on lower quality courses.”
IN SUMMARY: What a small, sad, lonely place this future Britain is going to be.
The UK Independence Party (UKIP) experienced a week of utter disarray after leader Diane James resigned, following only 18 days at the helm of the party, and the favourite to replace her was punched in the head by a colleague so hard it left him with bleeding to the brain. Fellow UKIPper and MEP Mike Hookem denies punching Steven Woolfe during an ‘altercation’ at an MEP meeting in Strasbourg, saying instead they were ‘hugging each other like a pair of tarts.’ Another glorious week for British politics.
I believe Donald Trump will be president next year.
A rolling poll from key swing state Ohio has placed him ahead of his democratic rival Hillary Clinton for almost a week now; and broader polls show the candidates are neck and neck with less than 50 days to go until the November presidential election.
Of course polls can be wrong. And it’s easy to see why people assume Trump is too outlandish, too ridiculous, and unreal to be elected. One of his platform policies is to build a wall around America, paid for by the people he wants to shut out. His son recently compared the global refugee crisis with a bowl of skittles. He eats KFC with a knife and fork – surely there’s at least one state where that’s illegal. With every week that passes, he drops another clanging gaffe that reverberates, painfully, across international media: and the world says this could never happen. Continue reading “All hail President Trump: How Brexit will lead to Trump’s Victory in November”→
Months after it helped convince citizens to vote to leave the European Union (EU), migration remains at the heart of post-referendum politics in the UK. One promise of the Brexiteers was that a points system would be brought in to gauge the usefulness of various applicants for immigration. Another promise was that the freedom of movement of EU citizens into the UK would stop. However the newly minted but not so shiny Prime Minister Theresa May’s has made the decision to rule out introducing a points-based immigration system to the UK following the referendum result which has stirred media attention in Britain as the debate about the UK’s future immigration policy rages on.
May’s immigration blunder
May made the initial comments before her journey to Beijing to attend the 6 September G20 summit earlier this month, largely an exercise in trying to keep the UK relevant on the international stage and assure international partners that Britain would not become a disconnected island. The points-system referred to is modelled after the Australian immigration system which sees immigrants being given points for their various skills, qualifications and backgrounds, as well as behaviour, as the basis for their potential residency in the state. May’s statement that there was not yet any proof such a system worked, emphasized that there was no “silver bullet” solution to reducing immigration to the UK. Upon her return, the British cabinet confirmed that the points system would not be part of their immigration policy. May promised, however, “some control” over immigration.