What Theresa May and her pals are doing to me and others

In my opinion, her government is breaking the law and is encouraging and even forcing British citizens to break the law too.

Why? While Brexit is not a reality yet, the British government has ramped up its anti-foreigner campaigns and is introducing procedures that are clearly discriminatory in nature.

As an example of what I mean by “anti-anti-foreigner campaigns”, a few days ago, health minister James O’Shaugnessy very cleverly suggested that foreigners in the UK do not pay tax. As what he said was not an outright lie, merely extremely suggestive, it is hard to call him out on it. He did not respond to a tweet from me about the matter.

It is lies and suggestions like these that fan antagonistic attitudes toward foreigners in Britain.

Also, media should take responsibility for what they report. The Standard quoted O’Shaugnessy without correcting him.

The Equality Act 2010 explicitly states that it is against the law to treat any person unfairly or less favourably than someone else because of a personal characteristic.

Those personal characteristics include race and according to the Act, the term “race” includes nationality, colour and national or ethnic origins.

  • The practice currently being introduced at hospitals, in which patients with foreign-sounding names and looks perceived as foreign are treated differently – and on occasion refused treatment on the basis of the assumption that the person is not British or not permanently based in Britain – is discriminatory in nature (a violation of the Equality Act). Note that this is also affecting British people.

The existence of NI cards means that there is no reason for this discrimination. It would be  very normal, expected even, to ask everyone to present their NI cards when using NHS services.

This verification could include a copy of the latest water or council tax bill if the government wants to make sure that someone is not using an old card but does no longer live in the UK if it worries about that. It could also serve to ascertain that the medical records contain accurate information. (I have missed appointments in the past because appointment letters continued to go to an old address.)

As an EU citizen in Britain, I underwent an interview process and submitted all the documentation that was required as part of applying for an NI number. NI numbers are not automatically assigned to anyone who shows up.

Asking this from everyone who uses NHS services would not be discriminatory.

(The new banking regulations coming into effect in January may not be discriminatory in nature, but I don’t have enough details to be able to assess that. The idea seems to be that the UK government wants to be able to freeze the bank accounts of foreigners it thinks it may want to deport. The usual errors can be expected. So I advise foreigners to keep sufficient funds in foreign accounts. Better safe than sorry.)

  • Information being sent to the Home Office when it concerns patients who do not have or are perceived as possibly not having the British nationality causes problems for medical staff as well as it forces them to violate doctor-patient confidentiality.
  • Theresa May also forces and encourages exploitation and discrimination of EU citizens, because of the stance she continues to take with regard to the rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK (and the deportation threats and notifications many foreigners have been exposed to). This has also appalled many EU officials.

By refusing to guarantee the continuation of the existing rights of EU citizens (*see below), Theresa May ensures that British employers cannot afford to hire foreign nationals for critical functions or functions that require (expensive) training. As we’ve recently been able to read, it also leads to exploitation of EU citizens currently in the UK.

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Verhofstadt is currently President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (@ALDEGroup). Among other things, he has been prime minister of Belgium. He is a member of the European Parliament and is the European Parliament’s representative in the Brexit negotiations.

I find it highly deplorable that the British government continues to set such an appalling example in the area of tolerance, inclusion and equality.

Successions of British governments (including for example Blair’s) have done this with regard to large proportions of the British population as well.

Many of the British may be astonished to see that EU citizens – all coming from nations with much greater equality than Britain – loudly object to how the British government is currently not only abusing their rights but also encouraging widespread violation of their rights (thereby perhaps also stepping up for some of those Britons).

 

PS 27 October
*I have meanwhile realized that I need to explain this further for the benefit of some.

Yes, Theresa May – she of the “go home or face arrest” campaign as I was reminded of this evening, and I have also read in the past that according to her, refugees come to the UK to kill and eat British swans – keeps saying that EU citizens who are currently here legally will be able to stay. The problem is that “legally” is redefined every other week, so to speak, and that the government picks and chooses bits of legislation depending on which outcome it wants.

Until very recently, I was no longer sure if I was still seen as being here legally or not, even though some legislation says that I have had the same position as British citizens for eight years now (namely after I had been here for five years, legally). With all the people being deported or threatened with deportation, even though most of that appears to have happened in error, I haven’t known what to expect for a long time.

If the UK government saw me as an illegal immigrant, however, it wouldn’t have admitted me back into the country on my recent trip to the continent, I reckon. Since then, I have been breathing easier. The idea that you can be arrested any time and instantly dumped into an immigration detention centre with no more than the clothes and anything else you had on you at the time of arrest and without there being any time limit to that detention is not one that puts a person at ease.

After my last trip out of the country, more clarity has been given – indeed! agreed! – but it still is not fully clear what “legally” means. Theresa May deliberately forced this limbo not just on EU citizens in the UK but also on British citizens abroad, so I understand. Most of them, too, seem to be mere “chicken shit” to her.

More and more young people are falling into debt – but it’s not their fault


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Paying the price.
Derwent Living/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Alex Simpson, University of Brighton

The UK has a consumer debt crisis and it is young people, aged 18 to 34, who are most vulnerable. National unsecured debt – which includes credit cards, overdrafts and car loans – has topped £200 billion for the first time since the global financial crisis struck in 2008. But the concentration of debt, and the experiences of vulnerability, are not shared out equally.

Andrew Bailey, the head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has warned that there is a “pronounced build-up of indebtedness amongst the younger age group”. He was responding to the FCA’s Financial Lives Survey which showed that 55% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 63% of 25- to 34-year-olds are in debt, owing on average over £8,000.

These numbers alone are cause for alarm, and that’s before even considering the harms and vulnerability that over-indebtedness brings. Any debt organisation will tell you about the damage which debt causes to mental and physical health. And yet so many young people are forced into debt, often before they start any meaningful form of work.

This problem should not be seen as a product of “binge” culture, and young people should not just be told to rein in their spending. Rather, this is a problem of affordability.

A house and a car? Keep dreaming.
Oscar F. Hevia/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Rising housing costs; an increase in zero-hours contracts; inflation outstripping wages; the rapid rise in student loans – all of these issues are creating a cage of debt around young people. While the older generation retains financial security through assets (usually in the form of housing) and enjoys greater security in work, the younger generation is more likely to be exposed to the risks of private renting and job insecurity.

How did it come to this?

Amid the global panic arising from the 2008 financial crisis, the UK government propped up a failing banking sector with £1,162 billion in support. At this moment, the private financial crisis turned into a public state crisis.

Crises are usually defined by change, signalling an end to the unstable conditions of the past. Yet the enduring legacy of the financial crisis has been a transformation of the role of the state and public finances, which has left young people in an even more precarious position.


Read more: Period poverty: why one in ten young women struggle to afford pads and tampons


Ten years on from the financial crisis, and eight years after the introduction of the welfare-stripping austerity agenda, one thing still holds true: it is the people who contributed the least towards the crisis who are paying the highest price.

A raw deal

As the UK government continues to pay back its own debts by cutting costs and squeezing out savings, it is really young people who are carrying the burden of debt. What’s worse is, they don’t really have a choice.

In the years since the crisis, fiscal responsibility has been transferred from the state onto the individual. In other words, rather than the state providing services to ensure a basic level of well-being for everyone, it’s increasingly up to individuals to pay the price for their own education, housing and health care.

Students protest against £9,000 tuition fees, London 2010.
Binary Ape/Flickr, CC BY

Nowhere is this clearer than in higher education; whereas the state once invested in the futures of the young, it now saddles university graduates with an average debt of £25,505 each.

Even the government’s flagship apprenticeship scheme uses young people for cheap labour, with 18-year-olds paid as little as £3.40 an hour.

All this means that, unless young people have the financial support of a parent, they are forced to rely on an increasingly punitive and complex benefit system or (more likely) be pushed down the pathway to debt. In these circumstances, it’s unsurprising that debt has become a “lifeline” for so many.

The ConversationDebt is a major political instrument of control, and it should be seen as such. Individuals shoulder the burden of debt, but it is not an individual problem; it is a problem of society. It is no accident that the young are indebted in the way that they are: it is the product of years of neglect and a lack of investment by the state. The political choices of the UK government got young people into this mess. Now, political action should be used to help them out.

Alex Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Brighton

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.