Philip Alston, the United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has just delivered a damning report on poverty in Britain:-
“There are 14 million people living in poverty, record levels of hunger and homelessness, falling life expectancy for some groups, ever fewer community services, and greatly reduced policing, while access to the courts for lower-income groups has been dramatically rolled back by cuts to legal aid.”
Mr Alston concludes “The Government should restore local government funding to ensure crucial social protection can help people escape poverty, reverse particularly regressive measures such as the benefits cap and two-child limit, and audit the impact of tax and spending decisions on different groups.”
The government has responded by calling the report “barely believable” and stating that the UN's own data puts Britain as the 15th happiest place to live in the world. However, we will recognise the features in the report such as foodbanks, cuts in police numbers and councils struggling to balance their books. Councils have cut back on services such as youth services and libraries to maintain statutory services such as social care.
The government should listen to Mr Alston and end the benefits cap and the two-child policy on family benefits.
It can only tackle public service underfunding with a strong economy. However, Brexit will make it more difficult to trade with our European neighbours and damage our economy. At a time when we face so many problems, we must not take ourselves further apart from our European neighbours.
Parliament has had three years to implement the 2016 referendum which narrowly voted to leave (52% to leave and 48% to remain). The Prime Minister has tried to find a way to leave which maintains trading links with Europe, does not allow border checkpoints between Northern Ireland and the Republic and which also keeps the Conservative Party united. This was an impossible task and she was doomed to failure.
Our best deal is the one we currently enjoy as a full EU member. This allows us free trade within the EU and enables us to work with our European friends and neighbours to tackle the big issues such as climate change. This is why we need a People's Vote on Brexit which gives us the option of voting to stay in the EU. Remaining in the EU gives us the best opportunity to tackle the challenges which Philip Alston has so effectively highlighted.