In my review of 2016 for WiB I concluded that ‘We shouldn’t be holding our breath to see what happens in 2017, we need to fight side-by-side building upon existing struggles and as Antonio Gramsci suggests, be pessimistic in our thinking, optimistic in our wills and never afraid to stand up for the causes we care about’. 2017 has promisingly started with a series of significant political demonstrations around the world such as the Women’s March on January 21, attended by millions of people worldwide. These protests have denounced the abuse of democracy as a tool of government and reacted to the rise of imperialistic, repressive and xenophobic politics by adopting various acts of resistance and an active agenda of political involvement and collective demand for global social justice. A group of academic colleagues at Kent Law School – Emily Grabham, Rose Parfitt, Sara Kendall, Luis Eslava and Emily Haslam – have drafted an open letter to Theresa May, to express collective dismay at the Prime Minister’s ongoing alignment with Donald Trump’s administration and the failure to take action against a range of openly racist, misogynistic and homophobic measures. The letter, firstly published on Critical Legal Thinking, has been supported and signed by academics and professional staff across the UK.
Dear Prime Minister,
We would like to express our collective dismay at your decision to align the British Government with the administration of the new President of the United States, Donald Trump.
President Trump’s recent actions have serious domestic and global implications. Among the most alarming are his openly discriminatory decisions to block immigrants and visa holders from seven Muslim-majority states from entering the US and to suspend the US’s Syrian refugee admissions programme indefinitely; to insist on the construction of a wall along the US-Mexican border, threatening Mexican goods with a 20 per cent import duty (notwithstanding US commitments under NAFTA) if Mexico does not pay for it; to suspend federal funding to any US global health organisation willing to discuss issues surrounding abortion with its clients; to freeze federal support for the US Environmental Protection Agency, threaten a US exit from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and throw his weight behind the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline projects; to voice his support for outlawed torture techniques including waterboarding; and to threaten or dismiss (in the case of the acting Attorney-General, Sally Yates) any member of the US legal and judicial establishment who questions the legitimacy of his government’s measures.
While many of these actions were anticipated during his campaign, much more surprising is your decision as British Prime Minister to refrain from expressing clear opposition to the Trump government on behalf of the UK as a whole, even as Trump puts his promises into action, bringing tens of thousands out onto the streets in protest in the UK and across the world.
We would like to remind you that seeking to realign the UK with the US while breaking its ties with Europe will be a disaster not only for the British economy and the NHS, but also for:
- Britain’s already-tarnished reputation as an open, multicultural society capable of supporting vulnerable individuals and communities and acknowledging its imperial past;
- The safety of UK citizens, residents and civilians worldwide, now more vulnerable than ever to forms of extremism and nationalism, including white supremacism;
- The resilience of an international order founded, however imperfectly, on a commitment to the equality of individuals and states; and
- The possibilities available for thinking differently about the challenges of the twenty-first century and, in particular, about the extent to which those challenges are reproduced by the ‘solutions’ on offer in such a profoundly skewed international order.
The alacrity with which Trump has put in place, by Presidential decree, a swathe of openly racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic measures, together with the President’s total disregard for existing US commitments under international law, indicate that the British Government’s decision to renew its ‘special relationship’ with the United States at this time can only lead, in the short-term, to further suffering and discrimination. We can only hope that this self-serving programme will, in the long-term, set in motion a demand for real change that governments and communities across the world will be forced to answer.
With this in mind, we call on you not only to cancel Trump’s invitation to visit the UK but also, and more fundamentally, to withdraw the support of the British Government for the United States more generally until these indefensible policies have been reversed and disavowed. If you do not, we fear that the UK will find itself, like Trump, on the wrong side of history, with serious consequences for us all.
Legal academics and professional staff across the UK