An action plan for challenging racism and xenophobia.

The immediate aftermath of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union has seen a dramatic upsurge in reports of racist abuse and hate crime directed at EU and other migrants and British BME communities.

Racist violence, abuse and harassment are not new and did not suddenly appear during or after the referendum on EU membership. But it appears that the negative portrayal of migrants during the campaign has given confidence to some with racist attitudes to voice their view publicly, and has increased the visibility of the far right.

This paper sets out what government and employers can and should do now to tackle racism and xenophobia. Our key areas for recommendations are:

1. Swift government action on hate crime
2. A cross-government action plan to tackle racism and discrimination
3. Zero tolerance of racism and harassment at work
4. Strengthening anti-discrimination rights and protection
5. Increasing support and advice at work

The TUC and our member unions are determined to play a leading role in tackling racism and xenophobia. As well as making recommendations in this paper, we joined the EHRC, ACAS, the CBI and other employers’ organisations immediately after the referendum to provide practical advice and guidance for employers1. We have also produced a guide for union reps2 to support them to tackle racist abuse and harassment in the workplace. This will go hand in hand with practical action to combat racism and division, including by working through our regions and the Wales TUC to reach communities around the country.

Professor Michael Dougan, the leading EU lawyer whose criticism of the referendum campaign’s “industrial dishonesty” went viral, has assessed the UK’s position following the vote to leave the EU.

The University of Liverpool Law School Professor has spent his career studying EU law as it relates to the UK; contributing to Parliamentary Select Committees, advising government and helping media fact check the barrage of assertions emanating from the Remain and Leave camps in the run up to the referendum on June 23.

Now, following the UK’s vote to leave, Professor Dougan has repeated his criticism, asserting that the Leave campaign was “one of the most dishonest campaigns this country has ever seen”, potentially resulting in “untold damage to the quality of our national democracy”.

Addressing the core of Vote Leave’s position, Professor Dougan considers allegations relating to the power held by the European Commission, the volume of law that emanates from the EU, the likelihood of a European Army, Turkey’s ascension to the EU – “no prospect in our lifetimes”, TTIP and immigration.

And because most of the campaign was based on constitutional and legal issues, he says it is therefore “relatively easy for a constitutional lawyer like me to investigate and evaluate the main planks of what the Leave campaign had to say”.

Professor Dougan is also highly critical of the actions of Vote Leave’s most prominent members in the days after the vote, as it quickly emerged that no plan was in place and their pre-referendum claims rapidly unravelled.

But he also expressed his concern that many of those that did Vote Leave will “not get the things they were falsely promised” and that this could leave them feeling “more disenfranchised, more marginalised and more angry”.

Finally, he says that this is now a “political crisis that needs a political solution” and that the Government has a “constitutional responsibility to protect the national interest”, with Parliament the ultimate decision-maker on whether the UK follows through and leaves the European Union.

Disclosure statement:

Professor Dougan is an employee of the University of Liverpool. He does not work for, undertake paid consultancy for, or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this post.

Listen to the Audio here.

The real problem with the Euro referendum for us in the Labour party is not just the mind numbing boredom of the so called debate, not just the carefully packaged statistical lies from both sides, not just the appallingly second rate nature of the patronising prime movers – it’s the Blue on Blue nature of it all.  You’re probably with me in finding Cameron nauseatingly arrogant and glib, and Osborne repulsively and self importantly slimy.  Osborne’s comment that by 2030 “GDP would be over 6% smaller and Britain would be worse off by £4,300 per household if we leave” is beyond parody.  It’s absurd.  He knows it.  The Treasury knows it.  The commentariat knows it.  Indeed an economics professor whose article I was just reading stated that Osborne’s: “cost estimate suffers from myriad failings that place it in the same category as tooth fairies, worldly visitations of Christian saints and (the concept of) compassionate Conservatism.”

So could that be a vote for Out then?

Nope, it couldn’t. How can anyone vote for the bunch running the Leave campaign.  Let’s leave Farage completely out of this.  He is disgusting, but let’s not forget that Boris is dangerously right wing, Michael Gove was recently described by a journalist as looking “increasingly like a gerbil on mescaline”, and that cruel liar, Ian Duncan Smith, is right there in the thick of it.

No, so far as I am concerned the only politician who has told the truth about the EU and this referendum has been Jeremy Corbyn, and all the media, from left to right (not that there is much on the left), have excoriated him for it.  I don’t know if anyone saw him on Channel 4’s The Last Leg on Friday 10th, but he was really good.  When asked, on a scale of one to ten, where he put the EU, he said he’d give it a seven, maybe seven and a half – which is fair comment. Cameron would have given it eleven (thanks to his renegotiation) and Johnson minus one.  And now, thank God, the whole shadow cabinet is out on the road talking about the social issues not the economic.

The framing of this Blue on Blue referendum debate, it’s very nature, its position within the massive austerity con that’s been thrown at us by this government, is both false and deeply dishonest.  What have we ended up with in this country?  A government which, judged on more objective standards than are currently in evidence in the mass media, is from the hard right.  If you haven’t read Owen Jones’ book, The Establishment, it’s really worth a look.  It reminds us how, within the last forty years, what had been previously a minor, academic, economic theory became main stream thinking.  What we now call neo liberalism was invented by Hayek at the LSE, streamlined with Friedman in Chicago, tried out in the real world by the ghastly Dictator Pinochet on the backs of his army tanks in Chile, promoted by the hugely wealthy sponsors of think tanks in the UK like the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs, and then worshipped by Thatcher and Reagan.

It has led directly to where we are now.  The destruction of the post war consensus, Thatcher’s much vaunted rolling back of the state, the privatisations, the continuing wholesale demolition of unionised work forces, the loading of more and more burdens on to the narrow shoulders of those already weighed down beneath low salaries, reduced benefits, job insecurity and the likelihood of minimal pensions – all this in the fifth richest economy in the world – in a country where top CEOs, not just in the City but in supposedly public service corporations like the BBC, “reward” themselves with vastly inflated salaries whilst maintaining beneath them a precariat of ill paid, frightened employees on temporary contracts.  In Mike Ashley, the repulsive, barrage balloon owner of Sports Direct, we see a shining example of what our country has become.

This is the frame within which we have been obliged to study the In / Out debate.  The EU did not cause the UK’s austerity.  Osborne and Cameron did.  The EU did not cause the massive homeless problem in London, Boris Johnson did.  The EU did not cut benefits to the UK’s poor and disabled.  Ian Duncan Smith did.  The EU did not attempt the commercialisation of our education system and promote the building of for-profit Academy chains in the UK, Michael Gove did.  The EU did not attempt to destroy the NHS, Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt did.

Now, forgive me, please, for a brief romp through the history of the EU.  It was founded in the 1950s initially to ensure a cartel for coal and steel designed originally to stop further arms races.  France, of course, in the 1950s, had thousands of small farmers and wanted protection for them from overseas food suppliers so the Common Agricultural Policy was invented to subsidise their structural inefficiencies.  But what many people don’t realise is the key role played by the USA in all of this.  Initially, after the war, the USA wanted Germany to become a pastoral economy in order to stop any build up of armaments once and for all.  But they couldn’t maintain this.  Why not?  Because of the USA’s position as the world’s biggest economy.  The world’s economic structure is, obviously, based on a balance between surpluses and deficits.  Those countries with a surplus need those countries with deficits to invest in and buy goods from.  So as, in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, the USA was the world’s dominant economy, the Marshall plan was not some kind of beneficent largesse thrown at Europe.  It was a way of guaranteeing a super puppet state of Europe which would create economic happiness for the USA by guaranteeing that the dollar remained the key world currency on their terms.  After the Bretton Woods agreement in 1944, the value of gold was fixed against the dollar – at $35 to the ounce.  This could not be changed.

Anyway, Germany was never going to be a pastoral economy, not with all that steel and coal on the Ruhr.  So by the mid ‘60s we saw the fully fledged German Economic Miracle and funnily enough we also saw General de Gaul sending his finance minister, Valery Giscard-Destaing to Germany to propose a new pan-European currency.  This was de Gaulle – of all people – proposing an early version of the Euro.  His idea was, of course, to try and stop American world financial domination and, of course, the Germans turned it down!  Why on earth would they want to tie their booming export based economy into a finance structure, alongside an economy as dodgy as France’s?  So onwards and upwards.  In 1971 President Nixon was manouevred by his advisers into removing the fixed relationship between gold and the dollar.  They told him that America was buying too much from outside and the surplus / deficit balance was teetering.  This act plunged Europe into crisis.  In 1973, France finally had to agree to let Britain join what had become the EEC and everyone hoped against hope that, despite the OPEC oil price rise, some kind of potentially stable economic structure had been created in which we could all benefit from a closed European market with high external tariffs.  And it was stable-ish – until the arrival of Jacques Delors, first as French Finance Minister, and then in the ‘80s, as president of the European Commission and, what had been an economic relationship, now strayed into the dangerous grounds of social engineering and the start of the attempt to create an ever closer union.  What Delors did, as France’s finance minister, was to convince the French president (Mitterand) that his country’s massive problems with their anti-austerity programme should be shifted from the shoulders of the French electorate to the shoulders of the whole EEC.  And there you go – increasing European integration meant that, almost at a stroke, you could start blaming outsiders for all your internal economic woes.

And all this time the once minor economic theory became mainstream and the economic world gradually became more and more right wing and more and more self interested and self satisfied with their “success”.  Those of us who lived through the Thatcher years were actually relieved when the most right wing Labour government ever came to power in 1997, but by then neo liberalism had taken hold of the economics departments of all the world’s major universities, inequality was as widely accepted as the ridiculous concept of the “trickle down” benefits of extreme wealth at the top of society.  And inequality grew and grew and still grows and for the 99%, wages, in real terms, have scarcely risen since the 1970s.

So, apologies for that very superficial romp, but I did it because it is important to realise that today, the economic arguments over the EU Referendum have only been stated in these neo liberal terms, the terms of the Tories’ right wing, ideological commitment to deregulation and the freedom for globalised finance to do whatever it wants wherever it wants – but no freedom of movement, of course, for cowed workers.  All these neo liberals want is the removal of any barriers to trade and flows of capital, and the permanent weakening of social and employment protection, where the 1% thrive and the 99% are grateful for whatever scraps they can pick up.

This, therefore, can be summed up as the Tory Remain position.  Less and less commitment to the EU as a socially cohesive entity and more and more commitment to unfettered access to it as the world’s largest market.

And of course my opening comment about the referendum being a being a Blue on Blue row returns because the Tory Brexit campaign shares exactly the same ideology as the Remainers.  And as all that seems to matter to both sides is a row about a disgustingly unequal economic future, what the hell are they fighting about?  Those of us in the Labour movement who believe in a managed economy which looks after the interests of working people and offers decent social protection, but who also think of ourselves as part of Europe, have, until now, been excluded from the “mainstream” economic debate.  And this is why Jeremy Corbyn’s job has been so difficult, and this I why it is only now, when the emptiness of the economic arguments have been revealed, that we are seeing Labour coming to dominate the closing days of the campaign.

But of course you can see why Cameron and Osborne have continued to put on their silly hard hats and Hi Vis jackets in various factories and focus constantly on fear and negativity.  It’s because while they are voting to remain In, they oppose all the aspects of the European Union that serve the interests of the 99% and so fear and loathing are the only arguments they have left.  They are just telling big business and the City of London that the Tories may be for remaining in the EU but they will also be continuing their implacable opposition to the rights of workers.  The Tory government seeks an EU in which capital dominates and protection of workers’ rights is non-existent.

So the current position is relatively simple and clear.  If we stay in, and the Tories stay in power, we are going to become increasingly marginalised within the EU because of Cameron’s joke  “renegotiation” and if we leave, it is almost certain that the pound will sink and for an indeterminate time – maybe not more than for a couple of years – the economy will struggle.  Worse still, thanks to Cameron, we are currently aligned with the far right within Europe and aligned with Boris Johnson’s anti-immigrant, xenophobic little England gibberish if we leave.

So by now you may be wondering where I’m going with all this.  After all I’m saying we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.  Well I’m already damned.  I have a postal vote and last week I voted… to Stay In.

Why?  You may… or may not, ask.

Because, actually, I have beliefs!  And NOT beliefs – I do not believe there is such a thing as the third way.  I do not believe that we should be happy with people becoming filthy rich.  I DO believe in social equality, justice, public service for ALL the people and I do believe that a Labour Government under the likes of Jeremy Corbyn is the only chance we will ever have of achieving these aims, and where better to try and achieve them than from within the European Union.

If we vote Out now we know it will never happen.

So finally just a few positives about the EU among the many negatives that it is foolish to deny exist.

Between 2014 and 2020 a total of €351.8 billion in EU regeneration and structural investment and €16.4 billion of that will find its way to some of the most deprived areas in the UK.

And the social chapter and other directives from Europe has already delivered… to:

  • Over 26 million workers in Britain who benefit from being entitled to 28 days of paid leave and a limit to how many hours they can be forced to work;
  • To over eight million part-time workers (over six million of whom are women) who have equal rights with full-time colleagues;
  • To over one million temporary workers who have the same rights as permanent workers;
  • To 340,000 women every year who have guaranteed rights to take maternity leave.

These are genuine reasons that any member of the Labour party would want to quote to voters to stay in.  It’s pretty nearly impossible to argue the case for immigration.  As we have seen from the blatant lies of our own MP the issue is too clouded with myth and counter myth.  All we can say is that in North Somerset the impact of immigration has been and will be negligible.  And thanks to Paul Dunn and Angela  for their (unpublished) letters to the local paper correcting Liam Fox’s lies.  If anyone wants to take on this fight they could do a lot worse than read these letters and use them when dealing with voters.

So, what I feel is, if we got Out we would be following a type of Victorian self satisfaction, the warped belief that white imperial Britain does best when left to its own devices, to its own values and to its own identity.  This would lead Britain into what feels to be both a familiar and a wholly new territory of rabid nationalism of the type which generated two world wars and a host of developing world conflicts.

None of us want this.  However imperfect we may think Europe is, and it most certainly is, its ideals far outshine the prevailing UK ideology and we should vote to stay in it to change it for the better.

Steve Timmins is on the Executive Committee of North Somerset Constituency Labour Party and is proud to be one of the many, many new Labour supporters in the constituency fighting for a Labour victory in 2020 under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn

Important Correction

In our earlier version of this post we incorrectly stated that:

“Between 2014 and 2020 a total of £351.8 billion in EU regeneration and structural investment will find its way to some of the most deprived areas in the UK.”

It has been brought to our attention that there are 2 errors in this statement: First of all the £351.8 billion figure should be €351.8 billion – Euros not Pounds Sterling. Secondly, the €351.8 billion figure is actually the Regional Development budget for the whole of the EU – see http://bit.ly/EURegionalBudget2014-2020 (pdf) – and we should have stated that only some of these funds will find their way to the UK,

In fact the total allocation of EU funds to the UK (via the European Structural and Investment Funds which are the vehicle for delivering Regional Policy) is €16,417,082,032 – see http://bit.ly/28QnrIj

Though an error in transcription and interpretation from source documents, it is clearly significant and we should have identified it earlier. Though we apologise sincerely for providing misleading information, our overarching argument still stands, that crucial funds are distributed broadly across some of the most deprived areas in the UK and across the continent.

Unpublished Letter to North Somerset Times:

Dear Editor,
I write in response to the discussion about the lack of housing and the extent to which immigration has contributed to a shortage. Of course there is a housing shortage, but this is because of the failure of this Tory government and the previous one to build sufficient houses. The Tories have forced austerity on local authorities and families, something North Somerset Council has complained about, and social housing starts have been far too low; that is the problem. To blame the shortage on immigrants when we have so few in our area is the worst kind of xenophobia.
Of course, the need for more houses is based on the fact that people are living longer and that more people move into the area than leave it. That’s British people moving into the area.
North Somerset has 3,500 people on its housing waiting list, but only a small number of immigrants from the EU and other countries, most of whom live in the private rented sector. Of those: 96.7% speak English as their first language and only 0.1% don’t speak English; the three largest groups are Polish, German and Irish; 94% of people in North Somerset were born in the UK; when asked, British people think that the UK Muslim population is 24%, when, in fact, it is 5% nationally and 1% in the south west; we are more likely to be treated in hospital by a migrant than we are to meet one in the waiting room; and 29 million tourists came to the UK last year, many to our region, and this number will surely decrease if we become known for not wanting foreigners here?
These are just a few of the facts gleaned from the latest census, but you can find more facts, by visiting www.tuc.org.uk/mswmigrantsmyths
Of course, if Liam Fox MP has his way, we will come out of the EU. He has failed to explain what will happen in the next couple of years if we do. I think leaving the EU would be a decision  which would cause economic problems for most of us and the possible breakup of the UK.
Yours sincerely,
Paul Dunn

Unpublished Letter to the Editor of the North Somerset Times:

Dear Editor

The article in last week’s North Somerset Times and Liam Fox’s comments about large swathes of the countryside being lost ‘possibly forever’ relates debates and decisions about housing and green spaces in North Somerset to immigration.  North Somerset Council’s decisions about protecting green spaces is not related to immigration for three reasons:

First, according to a 2nd February North Somerset Council report, Nigel Ashton has committed to housing 3 Syrian families/households across all the towns and villages in the whole of North Somerset. using Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme funding from central government. (Source, PDF)

Second, as a result of housing the three families/households this leaves North Somerset Council less likely to assist with those seeking asylum from war in the UK as the report states “Any decision to accommodate Syrian Refugees is likely to reduce North Somerset’s ability to take part in asylum seeker dispersal, given the pressures on the local housing market and services.”

Third, 190,809 of the 202,566 residents of North Somerset in 2011 census were born in the UK.  In 2013/4 the Office of National Statistics indicates that the balance of incoming long term international migration (offset against outgoing) was 285 people.  This volume is not responsible for the ‘protect our green spaces’ campaigns we see on our streets and social media. (Source)

It is very important to use facts to remain credible about matters of such importance.

 Angela Everitt

Secretary
North Somerset Constituency Labour Party

notice

This rally is political party neutral with contributions from people in North Somerset who believe that remaining in Europe is the sensible thing to do.  The speakers will explain how important it it is to do business with and in Europe, give us the inside track on how Brussels works and call for a realisation of the benefits to us all from the EU’s protection of workers’ rights to the maintenance of good public services.

publicmeeting

Wikipedia describes the TTIP as a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States. Proponents say the agreement would result in multilateral economic growth,while critics say it would increase corporate power and make it more difficult for governments to regulate markets for public benefit. Read more here.

There are many concerns regarding the impact the TTIP may have on our daily lives. Clare Moody our Labour MEP has provided an update on the TTIP negotiations at the European Parliament. Our former Chair and Agent Paul Dunn  wanted to share this update. Clare’s letter follows below.

08 July 2015

Dear Paul

I have received many emails about TTIP and am keen to keep correspondents updated. Please excuse this rather impersonal message. There were important votes in the July plenary session in the European Parliament this week, and as a constituent who has written to me on this topic, I thought you might appreciate an update.

As you know the European Parliament is in the process of adopting a resolution on the ongoing negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The European Parliament has no formal power while trade negotiations are ongoing, but it has the power to veto any trade deal once negotiations are concluded. In order to influence the TTIP negotiations at this stage, Labour MEPs have been pushing the European Parliament to adopt a text setting out clearly what we want to see in the final agreement and what we will reject. This is one of the most significant means at our disposal to ensure that TTIP negotiators take the public’s concerns into account

Like many of my constituents, I am very concerned about two particular issues:

Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)

ISDS is a dangerous system that gives greater rights to foreign investors over domestic investors. It has the potential to undermine our democratic law-making. Labour MEPs have taken a strong stance against the inclusion of ISDS in TTIP. Since we have developed and mature legal systems in both the EU and the US, there is simply no justification to have any kind of separate system in TTIP for investors.

We have consistently refused any kind of ISDS in TTIP, and have been putting pressure on the TTIP negotiators to drop their plan to include it. Therefore Labour MEPs have consistently voted against ISDS.

The exclusion of public services from any TTIP

There was also an amendment tabled by conservative MEPs to weaken a Labour amendment at the Strasbourg session. We had managed to introduce a strong paragraph calling for a full exclusion of all public services from TTIP, then conservative MEPs tried to remove a crucial element of this paragraph.

I was not prepared to accept this. Labour MEPs will not accept TTIP if it endangers in any way our public services, and we have made it clear that we will vote against the final deal if this is case. We therefore decided that we will vote against the European Parliament resolution if this conservative amendment is adopted.

I try to keep my website updated with developments, so please visit http://www.claremoodymep.com/tags/ttip

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

With best wishes

Clare Moody

Labour MEP for the South West and Gibraltar

01305 858285

www.claremoodymep.com

Twitter @ClareMoodyMEP Facebook: ClareMoodyMEP