Brexit

You get what you vote for, use your vote wisely… #GE2019


[Video and text credit,
Christopher John Ball]

There is more at stake in this 2019 UK General Election than Brexit. Please use your vote responsibly and with compassion for others. For how you vote impacts others. Disabled people have been hit very hard indeed by the Conservative policies of this government. The UN researched the impact of said policies upon disabled people and found that they had created a ‘human catastrophe’. Disabled people have died as a result of these pernicious policies. The film includes several examples of the monochrome photographs I have made whilst campaigning as a member of ‘Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

Vote Welsh Labour on December 12th

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There are so many reasons why we all need to pull together to ensure that we elect a Labour Government next week.

Welsh Labour is Standing Up for Wales:

  • £3.4bn extra, each year to invest in schools, the NHS and local government.

  • A green industrial revolution, creating thousands of new green jobs.

  • A £10 living wage, for all workers aged 16 and over.

  • A final say on Brexit, where Welsh Labour will campaign unequivocally to remain.

  • A ban on zero hours contracts, giving people the security they need at work.

  • Fairer taxation, with the top 5% of earners and corporations paying their fair share, whilst cracking down on tax avoidance and tax evasion.

  • Extend free social care, supporting more people when it really matters.

  • Strengthened parental rights, by extending statutory maternity leave to 12 months and doubling paternity leave.

  • Scrap tuition fees, building on the best student support package in the UK.

  • An end to the Tories’ disastrous Universal Credit, no ifs, no buts.

  • Four new bank holidays, including a public holiday for St. David’s Day.

The Welsh Labour manifesto can be viewed by clicking here. 

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Below, I have included a tweet from Welsh Labour as I believe the video shows that the First Minister Mark Drakeford has the passion that Wales needs to build a brighter tomorrow.

 

ENIL Press Release: Actions Over Words in the Next Five Years

Yesterday, I received the following email from the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL), which I feel is essential reading for anyone interested in Independent Living for Disabled people.

It is really heartening to read that many Disabled activists across Europe are laying out plans to protect and enhance independent living for Disabled people with high support needs. On the flip side, it is disappointing that I may not be able to join this fight for justice due to the fact that Britain is leaving Europe. I have not had confirmation that ENIL will be closed to those of us trapped in the UK once Brexit finally happens, but I assume that this is the case. I need to find out the exact situation…

Whether I can play a part in this campaign or not, I would like to pass on my best wishes and solidarity to all those involved with ENIL.

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In Brussels, 3 December 2019 – Today, disabled people all over the world celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Just one day after the new European Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, takes office, the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) highlights five key demands of Europe’s Independent Living movement for the new Commission. Rather than the usual words and promises about inclusion, we wish to see action in the next five years and new Commissioners that measure success by the positive impact that EU laws and policies have had on the lives of disabled people in Europe. 

ENIL, which marked its 30th Anniversary this year, suggests these five areas which  require  urgent action in the next 5 years:

[1] Ensuring that no private or public funds go towards institutional care services for children and adults with disabilities, such as group homes. Having launched the first case at the General Court in Luxembourg against the European Commission, for the use of European Structural and Investment Funds in Bulgaria, ENIL expects to see an end to investments that perpetuate the segregation and social exclusion of disabled people. Human rights abuses, such as those uncovered by Disability Rights International in group homes for children, have no place in 21st century Europe.

[2] Freedom of movement for disabled people within the European Union, but also in their own countries. Very little progress has been made in this area, and disabled people continue to be severely restricted in their choices of where to live. ENIL published a research paper with suggestions on how to move forward and give disabled people access to their right of free movement. One of the suggestions is to set up European information points about how to access the available support services and entitlements for disabled people in different Member States.

[3] The adoption of the new European Disability Strategy from 2020 onward, with concrete targets, timeline and budget, as well as an improved accountability framework, to ensure that Member States and EU institutions address the gaps in the CRPD implementation. Definitions of key terms, in line with the General Comment 5, on article 19, are crucial to avoid perpetuating social exclusion under the guise of community living. Independent living, and access to personal assistance, must remain at the heart of any future strategy.

[4] In line with the General Comment 7, on articles 4.3 and 33.3 of the CRPD, recognition of user-led disabled people’s organisations as key to ensuring that the newly adopted laws and policies address the barriers faced by disabled people. Whereas many stakeholders should have a say in decisions that affect disabled people, the lived experience of disabled people and their organisations must be prioritised over those of other interest groups and adequately funded.

[5] The Agenda 2030, with the Sustainable Development Goals, should be used by the EU institutions and Member States to mainstream disability within all EU policy areas, internal and external. Investing into inclusive education, employment, housing, health care and transport that is accessible to all must replace continued reliance on special service and facilities that keep disabled people on the margins of society.

[Photo: Participants in ENIL’s Freedom Drive protest in Brussels in October 2019. Taken by Enrica Laneri, Destination Everywhere.]

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The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is a Europe-wide network of disabled people, with members throughout Europe. ENIL’s vision is of Europe where all disabled people are able to exercise choice and control over their lives, on an equal level with others; where they are valued members of the community and can enjoy all of their human rights, as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). ENIL’s mission is to advocate and lobby for Independent Living values, principles and practices, namely for a barrier-free environment, provision of personal assistance support and adequate technical aids, together making full citizenship of disabled people possible. For more information, please see: www.enil.eu

#GE2019: Standing Up for Wales

The following email is from Mark Drakeford to Welsh Labour members.  I wanted to share it here to show why I believe in this Party and have faith in them to deliver a brighter tomorrow for everyone in Wales.  They will also be in a stronger position to do this if they are able to work with a Labour Party in Westminster.

#VoteLabour2019 #JC4PM2019 #ChangeIsComing

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On Monday I unveiled our Welsh Labour manifesto. It is a bold plan for how the Welsh Labour Government will work side-by-side with a UK Labour Government, led by Jeremy Corbyn. It’s a plan that will deliver for each and every community across Wales. But we need your help on the doorstep to make sure we can deliver it.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve shown what our people-powered campaign can do. Thousands of Welsh Labour members have been pounding the streets of towns, villages and cities spreading our positive vision for Wales’ prosperous future under a UK Labour Government.

Unlike the Tories who rely on their big donors, our campaign is funded by the generosity of hundreds of thousands of individual people who want to bring about real change.

Our Welsh Labour manifesto works hand in hand with the UK Manifesto in helping us deliver for Wales like never before, including:

  • £3.4bn extra, each year to invest in schools, the NHS and local government.
  • A green industrial revolution, creating thousands of new green jobs.
  • A £10 living wage, for all workers aged 16 and over.
  • A final say on Brexit, where Welsh Labour will campaign unequivocally to remain.
  • A ban on zero hours contracts, giving people the security they need at work.
  • Extend free social care, supporting more people when it really matters.
  • Strengthened parental rights, by extending statutory maternity leave to 12 months and doubling paternity leave.
  • Scrap tuition fees, building on the best student support package in the UK.
  • An end to the Tories’ disastrous Universal Credit, no ifs, no buts.
  • Four new bank holidays, including a public holiday for St. David’s Day.

    I hope you’ll agree that this plan is a blueprint for the Wales that we all want to see.

    And with your help over these crucial final few weeks of the campaign, that’s the future we can have.

    Welsh Labour is the only party that is standing up for Wales.

    Let’s get out there and spread the word – see you on the Labour Doorstep!

    I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail!

    Best wishes,
    Mark Drakeford AM
    Welsh Labour Leader & First Minister of Wales

#GE2019: Jeremy Corbyn reveals unredacted documents about secret US-UK trade talks

BREAKING NEWS

The following article has been taken from the official Labour Party website, and shows why it is so important that we #VoteLabour on December 12th.

#VoteLabour #JC4PM2019 #HANDSOFFOURNHS #NOTFORSALE

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Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, today revealed unredacted documents about secret US-UK trade talks putting the NHS on the table in any trade negotiations. Speaking at the press conference, he said:

If you watched the first TV debate between me and Boris Johnson, you’ll have seen me hold up these censored, blacked-out reports of secret US-UK talks about breaking open our NHS to US corporations and driving up the cost of medicines.

You’ll have seen Boris Johnson lose his cool, very angrily react saying it was “an absolute invention” and “completely untrue.”

He told the country there were “no circumstances whatsoever in which his government or any Conservative government” would put the NHS on the table in any trade negotiations.

What I have here is something I can reveal to you 451 pages of unredacted documents and information. All of it here.

His government released this [holds up redacted version]. We have since obtained this [holds up unredacted version]. Which is a very different version of events.

Perhaps he’d like to explain why these documents confirm the US is demanding the NHS is on the table in the trade talks?

These uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson’s denials in absolute tatters.

Voters need to ask themselves some very serious questions: is the NHS safe in Boris Johnson’s hands?

We’ve now got evidence that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale. He tried to cover it up in a secret agenda but today it’s been exposed.

Now we know the truth, when Johnson says, ‘get Brexit done’, it’s a fraud on the British people. This is the reality. Years of bogged down negotiations and our NHS is up for sale.

This election is now a fight for the survival of our National Health Service. As a public service free for all at the point of need.

So for the want of any doubt, let me give this reassurance: Labour will never ever treat our NHS as a bargaining chip in trade talks with anybody. We will never let Donald Trump get his hands on our NHS. Because our NHS is not for sale.

These reports cover six rounds of talks running from July 2017 until just a few months ago. The meetings took place in both Washington DC and London.

The six rounds should be taken as one ongoing negotiation.

We are talking here about secret talks for a deal with Donald Trump after Brexit. A deal that will shape our country’s future.

These reports pull back the curtain on the secrecy that’s being plotted for us all, behind closed doors, by the Conservative government. This is what they didn’t want you to know.

So let me take you through some key points.

Let me begin with medicine pricing. Remember, Labour and experts said big US corporations want to force up the price our NHS pays for drugs as part of the toxic deal being negotiated with Trump.

The Conservatives said this was nonsense. The documents show that we were right.

In fact, negotiations have advanced even further than we feared they had. The US and UK have already finished initial discussion on lengthening patents for medicines.

Longer patents mean only one thing – more expensive drugs. Lives will be put at risk as a result of this.

Many out-of-patent medicines available cheaply here are vastly more expensive under patent law in the US.

The drug Humira for Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis costs our NHS £1,409 a packet. In the US, the same packet costs £8,115. Get the difference – £1,409 in our NHS, £8,115 in the USA.

One of the reasons for US drug prices being on average 250% of those here is a patent regime rigged for the big pharmaceutical companies.

Dr Andrew Hill has warned the NHS could have to hand over £500 million a week more for medicines following a toxic Trump deal.

If you look at the readout of the second meeting, on page 51, UK officials report that “patent issues” around “NHS access to generic drugs will be a key consideration” in talks.

US officials have “pushed hard,” the reports says, for longer patents for US drug companies.

You can also see on page 132 of the report of the fourth meeting, where drug patents are being discussed, that officials are ready to “exchange text” which is trade-negotiator-speak for it being at a very advanced stage. And they say they are ready to, I quote, “really take significant further steps.”

Let’s be frank, the US is not going to negotiate to sell its own medicines for less.

President Trump himself never tires of complaining about what he calls the “unreasonably low prices” other countries pay for medicines. The White House even has a webpage attacking so-called “foreign freeloading” – that’s what they’re accusing our NHS of.

Big pharma has ripped off and imperilled the health of the American people for years. Now these secret reports show they’re looking to do the same to us – if the Conservatives are elected on December 12th.

Labour has been warning that NHS services will also be on the table in trade talks for a sell-out deal with Trump. After all, that’s exactly what Trump said when he visited this country in June.

He said and I quote: “When you’re dealing in trade, everything is on the table NHS or anything else.”

The Tories have denied it, but the documents show that on this occasion, Trump was right and so were we.

The new breed of trade deals are not only – or even mainly – about tariffs on goods at the border.

They are also about services – including our health service.

And these documents make clear that for the US, to quote page 41 of the third meeting report, “everything is included unless something is specifically excluded.”

They want, I quote: “Total market access” as the “baseline assumption of the trade negotiations.”

“Total market access.”

But surely you can’t believe that British officials would demand the NHS be excluded? Apparently not.

In fact, on behalf of the Conservative government, officials reassured their counterparts that “the US should expect the UK to be a liberalising influence” and that together they could “fly the good flag for services liberalisation.”

That’s a green light for breaking open Britain’s public services so corporations can profit from.

So now we know, direct from the secret reports that they never wanted you to see.

The US is demanding that our NHS is on the table in negotiations for a toxic deal – it’s already being talked about in secret. That could lead to runaway privatisation of our health service.

Mega-corporations see Johnson’s alliance with Trump as a chance to make billions from the illness and sickness of people in this country.

And if the Conservatives have their way and this deal goes forward, the changes I’ve revealed will be almost irreversible.

Officials have discussed a system to give corporations the power to sue our country. This is not only a plot against our NHS. It is a plot against the whole country.

These sell-out negotiations with Trump cover everything from food safety, to gender discrimination rules, to workers’ rights.

I’ll leave it to you journalists as experts to comb through these secret reports and expose the biggest threats. But let me give you a few pointers.

How about chlorine-washed chicken on our dinner tables?

Have a look at the second meeting, on page 42 and 43, where the US even agrees to share its “public lines” to help our government with its “media narratives.”

You might want to look at how Trump’s America absolutely refuses, absolutely refuses, to even mention climate change in the deal – see the second meeting, page 17.

On page one of meeting six for the US advocating a No Deal Brexit saying that would mean there’d be “all to play for” in a deal with Trump.

What’s at stake in a deal with Trump could not be more important for our country.

In this election the Conservatives want you to vote blind, keeping millions of us in the dark about their plans.

But these reports, first obtained in censored form by campaigners in this room, shine a light on this plot.

So it seems to me that it’s now on Boris Johnson to explain how all of this is an “absolute invention.” you heard his words on the video we just showed. To explain why he denied the very things we can now read in black and white. He must now come clean about the Conservatives’ sell-out plans are for our NHS.

Labour will not let this rest because, unlike the Conservatives, we’re not on the side of the billionaires and the bankers. We’re on the side of the nurse, the doctor, the patient and the people and we will never sell out our National Health Service. I’ll now ask our colleagues, friends from the National Health Service are here today to help us and they will pass around some copies of these documents and then Barry and I will take questions from you.

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Welsh Labour Will Campaign to Remain

This morning I received an email from Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, outlining his party’s approach to the Brexit shenanigans. I thought I would share this below.

I have lots going on at the moment, as I am still waiting on my WILG assessment and am in the midst of a staffing crisis. My stress levels are through the roof, and I have decided not to attend the first session of the counselling course that I was due to begin tonight. However, I do not live in a bubble and I realise that this Brexit palaver needs to be put to bed as soon as possible, so that politicians can get to work on the multiple problems that have been ignored in the face of all this Euro nonsense.

I am not sure what exactly is my position on the Brexit debate. I just want to see the back to it all, but believe in Mark Drakeford and  his political acumen. Therefore, I am sharing his opinions.

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Dear Nathan,

Given the dramatic and worrying events in Westminster recently, I thought this would be a good time to write to you personally to set out the Welsh Labour Party’s position on Brexit.

Welsh Labour believes that Wales’ best interests will only be served by remaining in the European Union.

We campaigned for a remain vote in the 2016 referendum and nothing we have seen or learned in the three years’ since has changed our minds.

Any type of Brexit – even the softest possible – will cause potentially irreparable damage to Wales and its economy. This is because Wales is heavily dependent on manufacturing and agri-food and 60% of our exports go straight to the EU.

We will support all the efforts our colleagues in Westminster are taking to prevent the no deal Brexit, which the Prime Minister and the Tory government is hell-bent on pursuing.

Labour has made an unequivocal commitment to put the Brexit decision back to the people.

In that referendum, we, as Welsh Labour, must and will campaign to remain in the EU.

Yours in solidarity,
Mark Drakeford AM
Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

The Final Furlong #SaveWILG

I am up to my neck in negotiations with my local authority over emergency payments for my depleted Direct Payments account. It has taken a beating over the past six months, as I have been using it to fund the 24/7 support that I so desperately need. I had saved quite a sum to be used in such a situation – it was always going to happen, due to the fact that I live with a progressive disability and had not been fully reassessed since 2010.

I am pleased to report that, having met with the Head of Adult Social Care, WCBC have agreed to make the relevant payments to ensure that I can continue to receive the support I need, at least until the end of my forthcoming WILG reassessment.

There is one thing that I would like to make clear to WCBC and all local authorities. One of the meetings I recently had with WCBC, through up the question of where the additional funds that I am now in desperate need of, would come from? I was shocked and disappointed that WCBC and a number of other local authorities, do not seem to grasp the fact that the #SaveWILG campaign that I led, resulted in the Welsh Government agreeing to fund any extra costs incurred. This was clearly outlined in a written statement on the future of WILG payments, made by the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan on the 18th of July:

I would remind Members that the cost of these independent care assessments, and any additional support for people that might be identified from them, will be met by the Welsh Government. This is so that there can be no question of changes being made to people’s care and support as a cost cutting measure. The under-pinning principle of my approach is to ensure that outcomes reached are consistent with supporting people’s agreed well-being outcomes.

It is important that all local authorities realise that Ministers have agreed to fund any increased care costs that may arise from the outcome of an independent assessment.

Even though the #SaveWILG campaign has been extremely critical of local authorities in Wales over the past four years when dealing with WILG recipients, we have actually assisted cash-strapped councils by reducing the amount they are expected to pay to support disabled people with high support needs across Wales.

WILG recipients and their supporters need to remember this fact, and hammer it home when confronted by adult social care professionals who do not keep up with the news, or realise just what an impact the #SaveWILG campaign has had. The Welsh Government has actually done something pretty special and deserve all the credit in the world. They have listened to our fears, read the evidence we collected and acted decisively. Sadly, there is little room for any positive news in the media at the moment, as we are all obsessed with the actions of a Conservative Muppet and the mess he is making of the BREXIT debacle.

All we need to do now, is remind all local authorities of the changes that have been introduced…

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