Everything But Brexit: All the Terrible Stuff the Government Has Done Since the EU Referendum

As the government gears up to triggering Article 50, here's our new guide to all the bad moves Tories have made while we've been distracted by Brexit.

|
Mar 27 2017, 1:35pm

Are you sick of hearing about Brexit yet? It's strange how a word that didn't even exist a few years ago has come to be so ubiquitous. And how, as politicians grapple with what exactly that word means, all other issues seem to have fallen by the wayside.

In a way, that's understandable. Who gives a shit about mud on the carpet when your house is on fire? Unfortunately, despite the raging inferno, we all have to carry on living in this house. In case you were wondering about the firefighter in this analogy, that's Jeremy Corbyn. He's the one standing outside muttering something about "the fight starting now".

Ordinarily, it's the job of the opposition party to point out the myriad ways in which the government is fucking up the country. But let's just say these are not ordinary times. Society is crumbling and Theresa May's administration is 19 points ahead in the polls.

With that in mind, here's a helpful list of things – ranging from the controversial to the downright terrible – that the government has done between the EU referendum and Article 50 being triggered. We're going to update it regularly with new terrible things.

The former department for Energy and Climate Change. Source: Philafrenzy/Wikicommons

  • Abolished the Department for Energy and Climate Change. One of Theresa May's very first acts as prime minister was to scrap the government department responsible for managing one of the greatest threats humanity has ever faced. The move was condemned by climate campaigners, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, who warned that green issues were being downgraded within Whitehall. Ed Miliband, who once headed up the department, described the decision as "plain stupid".
  • Fought a legal battle against reforms to Personal Independence Payments which would extend disability benefit to 160,000 people with conditions such as dementia.
  • Reduced the benefits cap. Charities warned the reduced cap would affect more than 116,000 of the poorest families in the UK and put domestic abuse refuges at risk of closure.
  • Appointed Boris Johnson, a man who has offended almost every nation on Earth, as foreign secretary, prompting incredulous reactions from governments around the world.
  • Continued selling arms to Saudi Arabia, despite evidence that the Arab state has committed war crimes in Yemen.
  • Slashed funding for pharmacies by more than £200 million over 18 months, putting up to 1,000 pharmacies at risk of closure.

Migrants waiting outside the Calais jungle. Source: Jake Lewis

  • Spent £1.9 million building the "Great Wall of Calais" in an attempt to stop migrants entering the UK. Yes, the British government literally "built a wall". Impressively, the project managed to anger both human rights organisations and right-wing politicians in France. Aid organisation Doctors of the World said the decision to build a wall was "as outrageous as it is ludicrous", while Natacha Bouchart, the Calais mayor who recently banned volunteers giving food to refugees, filed an injunction in an unsuccessful attempt to stop construction of the 13ft-high barrier.
  • Backed a pilot scheme forcing pregnant women to show their passports when arriving at hospital in an attempt to clamp down on "health tourism".
  • Declined to mention a Trident missile malfunction just weeks before a Commons vote on whether to replace four nuclear submarines at a cost of £40 billion.
  • Backtracked on plans to allow unaccompanied child refugees into the UK. The government claimed there was no more room, then refused to consult with councils on capacity.
  • Announced plans to bring back grammar schools, which select pupils based on ability. Critics say grammars increase inequality and have a negative impact on comprehensive schools.
  • Ploughed ahead with plans to reform business rates. Experts have warned a rise in property taxes will kill off thousands of independent businesses.
  • Proposed jail sentences of up to 14 years for whistleblowers, and the prosecution of journalists who receive leaked documents. Critics of a planned overhaul of the Official Secrets Act have warned that the changes would make it a criminal offence to receive or handle leaked documents. Jim Killock, chief executive of free speech organisation Open Rights Group, said the plans were a "full fronted attack on journalism", while leading human rights barrister John Cooper QC said they "would potentially undermine some of the most important principles of an open democracy".
  • Overseen an ongoing crisis in prisons which has seen officers walk out over concerns about safety and incidents of suicide and self-harm hit record highs.
  • Scrapped housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds. Charities have warned the policy will lead to thousands of young people becoming homeless.
  • Announced a local government spending freeze, prompting a warning from councils that they will need to cut back a range of essential services.
  • Offered a state visit to Donald Trump just a week into his presidency, an honour that was only extended to Barack Obama after more than two years.
  • Signed a £100 million deal which will see Britain sell fighter jets to Turkey – despite the country's dire and worsening human rights record.

NHS protest. Credit: Chris Bethell

  • Stood by as the Red Cross declared a "humanitarian crisis" in the NHS. The charity made its declaration in January after two patients died while waiting for treatment on trolleys in corridors at the Worcestershire Royal hospital. Just a few days later, more than 20 hospitals issued "black alerts", meaning they were unable to guarantee emergency care. Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: "For a long time we have been saying that the NHS is on the edge. But people dying after long spells in hospital corridors shows that the NHS is now broken".
  • Abolished the Child Poverty Unit. Set up in 1999, the unit was intended to abolish childhood poverty in 20 years. There is now no target and charities predict a 50 percent increase by 2020.
  • Pledged to crack down on international students, reducing the number of annual visas granted from 300,000 to 170,000 a year.
  • Introduced the "Snoopers Charter", requiring internet and phone companies to store browsing histories for 12 months and giving the government access to the data.
  • Ruled out an inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave, despite previous indications that one would be held, to examine claims that South Yorkshire Police attacked and framed striking miners.
  • Overseen a crisis in social care. Care providers have closed down in more than half of council areas due to lack of funding after six years of government cuts. Local authority leaders across the political spectrum have condemned the crisis, while leading social care experts have warned that the elderly and vulnerable have been put at risk. After months of inaction, the government announced in March it would be spending an extra £2 billion on social care in the next three years (or, more accurately, reversing £2 billion of cuts), but charities have warned this is unlikely to be enough.
  • Taken steps to open up the higher education sector to private firms, prompting warnings of a likely fall in standards and damage to the reputation of British education abroad.
  • Declared the UK has "shared values" with Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte – a man who has publicly encouraged people to kill drug addicts.
  • Weighed into a row between the National Trust and the Church of England over bogus claims that the heritage charity had "airbrushed faith from Easter".
  • Introduced changes to benefit payments which have dramatically reduced the financial support on offer to newly widowed parents.
  • Awarded £250,000 of funding raised by the "tampon tax" to a charity which has described abortion after rape as a "death penalty".
  • Has had its "Free Schools" policy condemned as "incoherent" by a cross-party group of mainly Tory MPs. It turns out these schools, which can be set up by charities, businesses and fussy middle class parents rather than local councils, have been cropping up in areas that don't need them. Meanwhile, "existing schools struggle to live within their budgets and carry out routine maintenance". Who originally came up with the idea that became this calamitous policy? The Tory Shadow Secretary for Education back in the early 2000s: Theresa May.
More VICE
Vice Channels