People are starving to death in 2011. Why?

We've got the money, the logistical and security capability. There is a geo-political case and a mor

Serious question. Why, in 2011, are we letting people starve to death?

It's such a basic one, it almost feels trite to ask it. In fact, somewhere along the way, it ceased to be a question. More a statement of moral outrage. Or, depending on your perspective, one of supreme naivety.

But I'll ask again. In 2011, why are we letting people starve to death? According to the UNHCR 1,700 people a day are, as you read this article, streaming across the Somali border with Kenya and Ethiopia. They, to an extent, are the lucky ones. That figure doesn't include the elderly or sick that are left behind, or the children who died along the way.

Why? I don't just mean why morally. Why logistically; practically?

Cost? The UN refugee agency has just launched an appeal for US$144 million to provide emergency relief, about £88 million. Why are they having to even appeal for that amount of money? In global terms that's not petty cash, it's not even the change you'd find down the back of Barack Obama's sofa, austerity package, or no austerity package. Actually, try asking those people trekking across the Somali wastelands what austerity looks like.

A report by Brown University estimated the cost of the combined wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to be to be in the range of $3 to $4 trillion. The Treasury has admitted the UK alone is currently spending £3 million a day on the operation in Libya, and that's not even a proper war, just an "intervention". We've got the money. Were just not spending it right.

Again, why? In Somalia, innocent people are dying at the hands of brutal local warlords, as they are in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. A region is being destabilised. As in the case of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The internal governance of the nation has imploded -- something we're spending billions trying to reverse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

I don't remember seeing campaigns for any of those operations. Charity singles. Celebrity appeals; "Just £5 will help buy the bullet that could stop one insurgent oppressing an entire village for a whole month".

When crisis like Iraq and Afghanistan develop we somehow manage to open the cheque book, get the heavy lift aircraft in the air, and ask questions later. But when people are starving to death in numbers al-Qaeda's most fanatical terrorists could only dream of, we are suddenly turned to stone.

Is it logistics? It can't be logistics. When the Haitian earthquake struck, satellite imagery was used to pinpoint the devastation in remote areas, and Nasa deployed special radar imaging aircraft to locate areas of possible aftershock. The United States Navy tasked an entire US carrier group to assist in the relief operation and the US Air Force managed over a hundred daily relief flights into and out of Port au Prince airport.

Some have said there are issues of security. World Food Program spokeswoman Emilia Casella recently told reporters that the UN is asking for assurances of security, and the ability to have full access to deliver and distribute aid in southern Somalia. Why? If there are people disrupting the flow of aid we should get a large number of those Marines and Paras, who are not going to be putting their boots on the ground in Libya, over to Somalia. Then if anyone tries to disrupt the relief effort, we can quickly and efficiently kill them. We've done it in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and demonstrated we're very good at it.

Is it a lack of political will? Again, it can't be. Even David Cameron -- hard cutting, belt-tightening, time to stop maxing out the credit card, David Cameron -- has publically stated overseas aid and development is a priority for his government. As recently as June, he told the Observer, "I don't believe it would be right to ignore the difference we can make, turn inwards solely to our own problems and effectively balance our books while breaking our promises to the world's poorest. Instead, we should step up, deliver on our promises to the world's poorest and help save millions of lives".

We've got the money. We've got the logistical capability. We've got the security capability. There is a regional case. A geo-political case. A moral case. We have the political will. I'm damn sure we have the public will.

So I ask again, and I'm genuinely not preaching, or making an appeal. It's 2011. People are starving to death. Why?

 

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After Article 50 is triggered, what happens next?

The UK must prepare for years, if not decades, of negotiating. 

Back in June, when Europe woke to the news of Brexit, the response was muted. “When I first emerged from my haze to go to the European Parliament there was a big sign saying ‘We will miss you’, which was sweet,” Labour MEP Seb Dance remembered at a European Parliament event in London. “The German car industry said we don’t want any disruption of trade.”

But according to Dance – best known for holding up a “He’s Lying” sign behind Nigel Farage’s head – the mood has hardened with the passing months.

The UK is seen as demanding. The Prime Minister’s repeated refusal to guarantee EU citizens’ rights is viewed as toxic. The German car manufacturers now say the EU is more important than British trade. “I am afraid that bonhomie has evaporated,” Dance said. 

On 31 March the UK will trigger Article 50. Doing so will end our period of national soul-searching and begin the formal process of divorce. So what next?

The European Parliament will have its say

In the EU, just as in the UK, the European Parliament will not be the lead negotiator. But it is nevertheless very powerful, because MEPs can vote on the final Brexit deal, and wield, in effect, a veto.

The Parliament’s chief negotiator is Guy Verhofstadt, a committed European who has previously given Remoaners hope with a plan to offer them EU passports. Expect them to tune in en masse to watch when this idea is revived in April (it’s unlikely to succeed, but MEPs want to discuss the principle). 

After Article 50 is triggered, Dance expects MEPs to draw up a resolution setting out its red lines in the Brexit negotiations, and present this to the European Commission.

The European Commission will spearhead negotiations

Although the Parliament may provide the most drama, it is the European Commission, which manages the day-to-day business of the EU, which will lead negotiations. The EU’s chief negotiator is Michel Barnier. 

Barnier is a member of the pan-EU European People’s Party, like Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He has said of the negotiations: “We are ready. Keep calm and negotiate.”

This will be a “deal” of two halves

The Brexit divorce is expected to take 16 to 18 months from March (although this is simply guesswork), which could mean Britain officially Brexits at the start of 2019.

But here’s the thing. The divorce is likely to focus on settling up bills and – hopefully – agreeing a transitional arrangement. This is because the real deal that will shape Britain’s future outside the EU is the trade deal. And there’s no deadline on that. 

As Dance put it: “The duration of that trade agreement will exceed the life of the current Parliament, and might exceed the life of the next as well.”

The trade agreement may look a bit like Ceta

The European Parliament has just approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) with Canada, a mammoth trade deal which has taken eight years to negotiate. 

One of the main stumbling points in trade deals is agreeing on similar regulatory standards. The UK currently shares regulations with the rest of the UK, so this should speed up the process.

But another obstacle is that national or regional parliaments can vote against a trade deal. In October, the rebellious Belgian region of Wallonia nearly destroyed Ceta. An EU-UK deal would be far more politically sensitive. 

The only way is forward

Lawyers working for the campaign group The People’s Challenge have argued that it will legally be possible for the UK Parliament to revoke Article 50 if the choice is between a terrible deal and no deal at all. 

But other constitutional experts think this is highly unlikely to work – unless a penitent Britain can persuade the rest of the EU to agree to turn back the clock. 

Davor Jancic, who lectures on EU law at Queen Mary University of London, believes Article 50 is irrevocable. 

Jeff King, a professor of law at University College London, is also doubtful, but has this kernel of hope for all the Remainers out there:

“No EU law scholar has suggested that with the agreement of the other 27 member states you cannot allow a member state to withdraw its notice.”

Good luck chanting that at a march. 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.