UK officially leaves EU after 47 years of European membership – World – TASS

LONDON, February 1. /TASS/. After 47 years of European membership, the United Kingdom officially withdrew from the European Union at 23:00 GMT (2:00 Moscow time on Saturday).

The withdrawal, known as Brexit, was initiated after Britons voted to quit the European Union during the 2016 referendum. The margin was 1.3 million votes (52% versus 48%).

Thousands of Brexit supporters celebrated the withdrawal by gathering in downtown London. Brexiteers have gathered in Parliament Square to celebrate the historic moment, chanting and waving flags. Governmental buildings were illuminated with national flag colors – blue, red and white.

An hour before this turning point in the UK’s political history, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an ardent Brexit supporter, delivered his address to the nation.

Flag removed

Earlier in the day, the flag of the United Kingdom has been removed from the building of the EU Council. The video of the flag being removed was released via the Council’s official Twitter shortly before midnight.

“The UK flag is removed from the EU Council building in Brussels as the country leaves the EU at midnight,” the EU Council said in a Twitter post.

Premier’s speech

After quitting the European Union, the United Kingdom will finally “rediscover muscles that we have not used for decades,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address to the nation shortly before Brexit.

“For all its strengths and for all its admirable qualities, the EU has evolved over 50 years in a direction that no longer suits this country. And that is a judgment that you, the people, have now confirmed at the polls,” Johnson said.

“I believe that with every month that goes by we will grow in confidence not just at home but abroad,” he continued. “And in our diplomacy, in our fight against climate change, in our campaigns for human rights or female education or free trade we will rediscover muscles that we have not used for decades.”

According to the premier, in order to achieve those ambitious tasks, the country needs to overcome the differences, generated by the Brexit issue.

“Tonight we are leaving the European Union. For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come. And there are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss. And then of course there is a third group – perhaps the biggest – who had started to worry that the whole political wrangle would never come to an end,” he said.

The premier went on to say that finding a common ground for all political and social groups was his cabinet’s task.

“I understand all those feelings, and our job as the government – my job – is to bring this country together now and take us forward,” he said. “And the most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning. This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act in our great national drama.”

Johnson expressed hope that constructive dialogue with the European Union would continue.

“We want this to be the beginning of a new era of friendly cooperation between the EU and an energetic Britain,” he said.

After January 31, the UK and the EU enter a transition period meant to maintain the existing state of affairs, particularly on trade and tariffs, while the two sides are negotiating a deal on future trading relations. The transition period is scheduled to end on December 31, 2020. London is also obliged to continue paying membership fees to the EU budget until the end of 2020.

Related posts

In the wake of Brexit, turns out racism is a very British thing

person

On Brexit day, CBBC shared a video clip from its Horrible Histories programme on Twitter. Comedian Nish Kumar introduced the clip, which was intended to be a lighthearted history of “British things” aimed at children.

Unfortunately, some flag-waving Brexit fans didn’t respond too well to being told that tea, sugar, and cotton aren’t really British. Kumar received a racist backlash from people who clearly aren’t big on history:

Ooh Nish Kumar is trending. Let’s take a l-

*a tsunami of gammon washes through the screen

English supremacists are literally losing their shit at Nish for telling them where tea, sugar & cotton actually come from.

😂✊🏾❤pic.twitter.com/qqcUK93Zyf

— Kerry-Anne Mendoza (@TheMendozaWoman) January 31, 2020

Even the likes of BBC presenter Andrew Neil joined in the pile-on. Meanwhile, blame for the video’s “anti-British” message fell squarely on Kumar, despite the fact that Kumar only introduced the clip. In fact, the clip itself has been around for a while and wasn’t even made for Brexit:

Interesting that nobody had an issue with this song when it was first shown in 2009… It’s almost as if they have a problem with Nish Kumar, not the message? 🧐 https://t.co/TZ2tieyXlX

— oh look another fool (@ElenaBjxrn) January 31, 2020

Your racism is showing

Much as many people at Brexit Day celebrations might argue that they aren’t racist, just proud of being British, their true colours keep showing. And they are, quite frankly, disgusting:

Nish Kumar was born in Wandsworth.

— rufa ratae (@rufaratae) January 31, 2020

it only ended slavery by spending a king’s ransome by buying off slave owners, learn some history before opening yer cake ‘ole https://t.co/10fp91wnRT #bloodyknowalls

— John Boocock (@JohnBoocock) January 31, 2020

Clearly, Brexit has emboldened those with racist views, which is obvious from the spike in racially-motivated hate crime in recent years. So the far-right leanings of some celebrating Brexit Day come as no surprise:

this is moment we left the EU last night from within parliament square. amongst 1000s of ppl there were sizeable pockets of far-right. lads with swastika neck tattoos, ppl singing “oh tommy tommy”+deification of nigel farage. a big moment that felt a little like a tipping point. pic.twitter.com/eX8jGyqiYm

— Ben Smoke (@bencsmoke) February 1, 2020

“Make Britain Great Again”

The nationalist lines of ‘getting our country back’ and ‘making Britain great again’ has an eerie echo of the Trump-supporting MAGA crowd in the US:

Peak Leavers’ interview. Watch and weep. 😖🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/gQsGLeZQME

🕷Mrs Miggins Esq (@MrsMigginsHere) January 31, 2020

Sadly, Kumar’s experience of racism in the wake of Brexit isn’t the only one. It’s just more visible because of its public nature. Meanwhile, everyday experiences of racism for People of Colour carry on in Brexit Britain:

A friend posted this on another social media platform, left overnight in her neighbourhood. pic.twitter.com/CuFHgr7uTn

— Dorothy Lepkowska (@DotLepkowska) January 31, 2020

Those celebrating Brexit are doing so because they got what they wanted. But if they want me or Kumar to go back to where we came from, there’s bad news. Britain may have left the EU, but people like us aren’t going anywhere.

Featured image via YouTube/CBBC

By Afroze Fatima Zaidi

Related posts

Sir Nigel Farage? Prospect of knighthood for Brexit Party leader provokes joy & horror on Twitter

car person

The prospect of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage receiving a knighthood in the UK’s New Year Honours list has been met with a mixture of delight and dismay in equal measure on social media.

According to the UK government’s website, the annual list “recognises the achievements and service of extraordinary people” across the country. One lucky recipient of such an honor could be Farage, who is rumored to be in line for a knighthood, primarily for his long-running campaign to see Britain leave the European Union.

Also on rt.com

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage campaigns in Hartlepool, December 11, 2019.
Victory for Brexit, but not Brexit Party: Farage says he’s ‘comfortable’ with winning no seats in UK election

The thought of such a prestigious accolade for the 55-year-old politician has, perhaps quite predictably, caused ructions on social media. An avalanche of comical memes and gifs have been tweeted by his allies and detractors.

Many of Farage’s supporters have come out to praise his contribution to the Brexit debate with some suggesting that the UK would “still be waiting for a [EU] referendum” without him.

Yes Yes Yes, Marvelous.
Arise Sir Nigel.😉🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧👍 pic.twitter.com/ADp3K1BUam

— dave (@NorthBankDave1) December 23, 2019

Stand Up Sir Nigel Farage #NigelFarage . He has selflessly fought for British Democracy for over 25 years. #SirNigelFarage pic.twitter.com/pqeLuIwOLh

— Ken Shakesby (@ken_shakesby) December 23, 2019

A number of his critics appeared dumbfounded that such a title for the arch Brexiteer could even be contemplated. One person tweeted that if he is knighted then she’ll be having her “own Brexit and leaving the UK!!!”

pic.twitter.com/bHbqHhJpFp

— Tracy O’Shea (@TracymOshea) December 23, 2019

How is that even a question? He has achieved nothing! pic.twitter.com/cSVm54LDj9

— Lauren Rose 🌹 (@RedLeftie) December 23, 2019

The New Year Honours list consists of knights and dames, appointments to the Order of the British Empire, and gallantry awards to servicemen and women, and civilians. Individuals are nominated by UK government departments and members of the public with the Queen informally approving the list.

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

Related posts

Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History | Art Practical

Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History

The 2019 Venice Biennale feels like the end of everything: the end of art tourism, the end of vacations, the end of the beach and the climate of pleasure. With bad news about the climate crisis worsening every day, the nationalistic turn of governments from the U.S. to Britain to Italy to India and Brazil, it’s unclear whether the liberal ideology that produces world-scale cultural events like the Biennale can hold much longer, or whether the economic or ecological structures of global tourism can continue to support it. The liberal democratic order of free markets and free will is undermined around the globe by violent nationalism and economic protectionism. The Biennale exhibition, May You Live in Interesting Times, offers little but a hollow scream in opposition. The whole thing feels a bit like buyer’s remorse, a magnum opus from a lapsed believer in Francis Fukuyama’s promise that we’d reached the End of History.1

Arthur Jafa

Joint Italy-EU military vessel with helicopter, Piraeus Port, Greece, August 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Both the main exhibitions and the various national pavilions feature more women and artists of color this year than any previous. Diversity is manifest with respect to types of work, interests, materials, biographies, and ages of the artists on view. Curator Ralph Rugoff states that “[the artists’] work grows out of a practice of entertaining multiple perspectives: of holding in mind seemingly contradictory notions, and juggling diverse ways of making sense of the world.”2 Diversity and multiplicity appear here to be set up as counternarratives to universalism, the ideology that has historically governed the international contemporary art discourse. But is this in fact the case? Fukuyama says, “The spectacular abundance of advanced liberal economies and the infinitely diverse consumer culture made possible by them seem to both foster and preserve liberalism in the political sphere.” If, as Fukuyama suggests, there are  “fundamental ‘contradictions’ of human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure,”3 diversity is not one of those contradictions. Rather, pluralism reinforces the “common ideological heritage of mankind,”4 while fascism’s resurgence around the globe and the popular embrace of nationalist identity are more of a contradiction in light of the realities of international markets. This is the turn of events that market utopians like Fukuyama failed to anticipate.

Rugoff never comes off as a utopian, given his pervasive air of weary detachment. Rather, the exhibition transmits how it feels to watch the ascent of Donald Trump and the unfolding catastrophe of Brexit from the “all-knowing,” cool remove of the contemporary art insider—omniscient, yet impotent, and unable to divest from toxic habits. George Condo, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Christian Marclay, and Arthur Jafa channel an anxiety bordering on panic. Construction, shipping, air travel, commerce, monuments, the body, gender—all once fixed as concepts in the Western imagination, with clearly associated positive values, are now invoked by artists such as Yin Xiuzhen, Nicole Eisenman, Slavs and Tatars, and Martine Gutierrez as hazardous, unstable, and volatile. Nowhere is this instability more evident than in the work of Mari Katayama, a Japanese artist whose self-portraiture tableaus tease the boundary between agency and objectification. These artists, more than the comparably straightforward representation advanced by artists like Zanele Muholi, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, or Gauri Gill, capture the zeitgeist of not just the show but the present time. Our historical moment is monumentally catastrophic, and the usual serious response to extremism doesn’t seem to be working. Instead, the images range from abject to absurd.

astronaut

Indios antropófagos: A Butterfly Garden in the (Urban) Jungle. Peru Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Especially relevant are the artists who toy with the fetishization of Indigenous bodies and cultures for Western consumption. Within the main exhibition curated by Rugoff, Gutierrez situates her U.S.-born Latinx, trans body within a series of photographic landscapes, Body in Thrall, that challenge touristic notions of indigeneity, cultural authenticity, and romanticized poverty around non-white people. She occupies diverse personas, from a film noir femme fatale to the terrifying Aztec deity Tlazolteotl, “Eater of Filth,” always negotiating the high fashion aesthetics of desire with a subversive decolonial aggression. Similar themes and tactics appear in Indios antropófagos in the Peruvian Pavilion, curated by Gustavo Buntinx, in which historical artifacts from the Spanish colonial era and large mosaic tile works by Christian Bendayán depicting frolicking Indigenous youth come together in a scathing critique of cultural tourism. In the French Pavilion, curated by Martha Kirszenbaum, artist Laure Prouvost references the oceans and the sea life projected to die out by 2048, only 29 years into the future, with a number of glass animals seemingly cast into the sea floor, strewn across a landscape of refuse and discarded technologies.

Back in the real world, there’s no way to excise or sequester the beautiful parts into a future that can outlast the very real catastrophes happening now. The overwhelmingly urgent need for a complete lifestyle change played in my head over the week following my visit to the Biennale, as I recuperated from a difficult personal and professional year on a seven-day Greek Islands cruise with my young children, partner, and parents. Looking over the waters where thousands of migrants have drowned, from the top deck of a massive, yet outdated, luxury vessel, I considered how the looming climate crisis creates a condition of simultaneous enjoyment of the modern world that is all around us, and a mourning for its obvious and inevitable loss. Is this the end of curating? The traditional role of the curator as guardian of the world’s collected treasures seems as irrelevant as the contemporary job of mounting resource-heavy exhibitions for an international crowd of jet-setters. Conceptualism has begun to rot from the head, as when Rugoff controversially chose to include Christoph Büchel’s installation of a salvaged boat that, in 2015, sank in the Mediterranean with more than 800 people aboard. I reflected on this watery tomb, recommissioned as a tourist attraction, while looking out across Piraeus port. In the distance, a military troop (jointly operated by Italy and the European Union) performed exercises atop a warship in a city where anti-immigrant attacks are on the rise. In the seventeenth century, the Venetians gained and lost control of Athens in a rivalry with the Ottomans. Today, it seems the EU’s primary objective in the Mediterranean is to sever thousands of years of interconnection between these three regions. Two years ago, the regenerative promise of art as a universal cultural good was undermined when documenta 14 recreated the financial dynamics of German austerity policies in Athens, Greece afresh. Debts went unpaid, workers uncompensated, all in the name of “fiscal responsibility” that nearly shuttered the sixty-year-old event for good. What better outcome ought we to expect this year from an art event born out of universal nationalism?

Christine Wertheim

Halil Altindere, Space Refugee, 2016. May You Live in Interesting Times, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

An explicitly utopian impulse is fugitive in May You Live in Interesting Times, but it manifests in the intersection of art, science, and technology. Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Crochet Coral Reef raises awareness about preservation of the oceans through a crowdsourcing practice that combines mathematical learning with environmentalism and craft. Tavares Strachan’s meditation on African American astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., locates metaphysical discourse about the afterlife within a scientific conversation about space travel—where elsewhere Halil Altindere complicates this view with the tale of Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Ahmed Faris and his persecution by the state. Ryoji Ikeda bathes us in cleansing white light and describes a massive, thunderous universe of data that takes breathtaking shape before our eyes. Hito Steyerl’s This is the Future is a post-internet pastorale in which computer vision is applied to the Venetian landscape to depict a state of perpetual, dreamlike futurity in which the present persistently refuses to resolve into view. The protagonist of Steyerl’s installation seeks out a garden that she had previously hidden in the future in order to protect it from the ravages of the present.

The song of the Lithuanian Pavilion Sun & Sea (Marina) still rings in my ears:

“When my body dies, I will remain,
In an empty planet without birds, animals and corals.
Yet with the press of a single button,
I will remake this world again”

The finale of Sun & Sea (Marina) details the 3D printing of facsimiles of species in widespread collapse, taking comfort in their simulated resurrection as one would in the cold rays of a dying sun.

Greek Islands

Sun & Sea (Marina), Lithuanian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

The gentle tenor of the apocalyptic visions in Sun & Sea (Marina) perfectly encapsulates the feeling of living at the outside edge of the story of the human species on planet Earth, with the knowledge that history as we know it may well be about to end because our species is one of millions undergoing collapse. The emptiness of our endeavors is invoked by Shilpa Gupta, whose wildly swinging metal gate hammers an effigy of national borders into a gallery wall. Otobong Nkanga’s drawings in acrylic on crayon reference the mechanical, industrialized nature of exploitation in the 21st century. Unlike the bees, whose society is organized around abundance, we humans have engineered systems to maximize our suffering. If humankind can truly lay claim to a common ideological heritage, as Fukuyama once argued, we have only ourselves to blame for our impending end.

Related posts

Interest rates: Powell tells Congress federal debt is ‘unsustainable’

Powell: U.S. debt is ‘on unsustainable path,’ crimping ability to respond to recession

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned lawmakers Wednesday that the ballooning federal debt could hamper Congress’ ability to support the economy in a downturn, urging them to put the budget “on a sustainable path.”

Powell suggested such fiscal aid could be vital after the Fed has cut its benchmark interest rate three times this year, leaving the central bank less room to lower rates further in case of a recession.

“The federal budget is on an unsustainable path, with high and rising debt,” Powell told the Joint Economic Committee. “Over time, this outlook could restrain fiscal policymakers’ willingness or ability to support economic activity during a downturn.”

Powell also reiterated that the Fed is likely done cutting rates unless the economy heads south.

“The outlook is still a positive one,” he said. “There’s no reason this expansion can’t continue.”

The testimony marks a more aggressive tone for Powell, who generally has steered clear of lecturing lawmakers on the hazards of the federal deficit. But after raising its key rate nine times since late 2015, the Fed has lowered it three times this year to head off the risk of recession posed by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and a sluggish global economy.

Those developments have hurt manufacturing and business investment while consumer spending remains on solid footing.

The Fed’s benchmark rate is now at a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, above the near-zero level that persisted for years after the Great Recession of 2007-09 but below the 2.25% to 2.5% range early this year.

“Nonetheless, the current low-interest-rate environment may limit the ability of monetary policy to support the economy,” Powell said.

Noting the Fed has lowered its federal funds rate an average 5 percentage points in prior downturns, Powell said, “We don’t have that kind of room.” He added, “Fed policy will also be important, though,” if the nation enters a recession. Fed officials have said they still have ammunition to fight a slump, including lowering rates and resuming bond purchases.

Meanwhile, the federal budget deficit hit $984 billion in fiscal 2019, the highest in seven years, and it’s expected to top $1 trillion in fiscal 2020. The federal tax cuts and spending increases spearheaded by Trump have added to the red ink and are set to add at least $2 trillion to the federal debt over a decade. The national debt recently surpassed $23 trillion.

“The debt is growing faster than the economy and that is unsustainable,” Powell said.

He added that a high and rising federal debt also can “restrain private investment and, thereby, reduce productivity and overall economic growth.” That’s because swollen debt can push interest rates higher.

“Putting the federal budget on a sustainable path would aid in the long-term vigor of the U.S. economy and help ensure that policymakers have the space to use fiscal policy to assist in stabilizing the economy if it weakens,” Powell said.

He added, “How you do that and when you do that is up to you.”

Many economists are forecasting a recession next year, though the risks have eased now that the U.S. and China appear close to a partial settlement of their trade fight and the odds of a Brexit that doesn’t include a trade agreement between Britain and Europe have fallen.

Powell also said the Fed is unlikely to reduce interest rates further unless the economy weakens significantly – a message he delivered after the central bank trimmed its key rate for a third time late last month.

“We see the current stance of monetary policy as likely to remain appropriate” as long as the economy, labor market and inflation remain consistent with the Fed’s outlook, Powell said.

Since last month’s Fed meeting, the government has reported that employers added 128,000 jobs in October – a surprisingly strong showing in light of a General Motors strike and the layoffs of temporary 2020 census workers.

“There’s a lot to like about today’s labor market,” Powell said. He noted the 3.6% unemployment rate, near a 50-year low, is drawing Americans on the sidelines back into the workforce. And while average yearly wage growth has picked up to 3%, it’s lower than anticipated in light of the low jobless rate. Inflation, he said, remains below the Fed’s 2% target.

“Of course, if developments emerge that cause a material reassessment of our outlook, we would respond accordingly,” Powell said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tried to coax the Fed chief into weighing in on the potential economic impact of “a massive tax increase,” which some analysts say could be required by several Democratic presidential candidates’ proposals for universal health care or free college tuition.

“I’m particularly reluctant to be pulled into the 2020 election,” said Powell, a Republican and Trump appointee who has been repeatedly attacked by the president for not cutting interest rates more sharply.

Related posts

Gordon Sondland, hotelier turned diplomat, wasn’t always a Trump supporter

Gordon Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, finds himself in the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry after the State Department blocked him from appearing before three congressional committees on Tuesday.

Sondland has been a player in Republican politics for a number of years but wasn’t always a Trump supporter.
Sondland was previously the founder and CEO of the Provenance Hotels chain, which boasts 19 hotels across the country.
Sondland was confirmed to the ambassador role on June 29, 2018.

A frequent donor to the GOP

During the 2016 election, Sondland donated to Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign and to the former Florida governor’s Super PAC, FEC filings show. After Trump locked up the nomination, Sondland, a frequent donor to the Republican National Committee, joined Trump and the RNC’s joint finance operation.
George W. Bush
However, after Trump attacked a Gold Star family, Sondland sought to distance himself from Trump after The Seattle Times obtained an invitation to a August fundraiser for Trump that showed Sondland listed as an event sponsor.
A spokeswoman for Sondland said at the time that he would not be hosting or attending any Seattle or Portland fundraisers for the Trump campaign, Willamette Week reported.
“Mr. Trump’s statements have made it clear that his positions do not align with” his personal beliefs and values, Provenance Hotels spokeswoman Kate Buska told the Portland newspaper.
“Historically, Mr. Sondland has been supportive of the Republican party’s nominees for President,” she added. “However, in light of Mr. Trump’s treatment of the Khan family and the fact his constantly evolving positions diverge from their personal beliefs and values on so many levels, neither Mr. Sondland or Mr. Wali can support his candidacy.”
After the election, Sondland donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee through four limited liability companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Although the bulk of his donations have been to GOP candidates, he gave over $5,000 to Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s reelection campaign in 2015, according to FEC filings.
Wyden had vouched for Sondland during his confirmation hearing in 2018, saying he knew the hotelier for a quarter century by way of Oregon’s “really small Jewish community.”
He also touted Sondland’s contributions to the Oregon community, including a $1 million endowment to the Portland Art Museum, where he served as its chairman from 2009 to 2011, to allow free admission for children.

Limited prior work in government

Sondland is a first generation American of refugee parents, who fled Nazi Germany and eventually settled in Seattle, Washington.
Before he took on the diplomat role, Sondland’s work in government had been limited. He was appointed by George W. Bush to serve on the Commission for White House Fellowships.
He had worked on the transition team for Oregon Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who was governor from 2003 to 2011. Sondland also worked as a principal Republican liaison for Oregon and the White House. He also chaired the governor’s Office of Film and Television.
While he is ambassador to the European Union, he has stated that he has a specific interest in Ukraine.
“President Trump has not only honored me with the job of being the US ambassador to the EU, but he’s also given me other special assignments, including Ukraine,” he told a Ukraine media outlet in July.
Sondland was set to be on the hot seat Tuesday as House investigators pressed him about text messages he exchanged related to Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky and the freezing of foreign aid to Ukraine.
In text messages released last week by the former US special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, Sondland told a US diplomat concerned over the withhold of funding in exchange for an investigation that he is mistaken about Trump’s intentions.
But on Tuesday morning, the State Department ordered Sondland not to appear before Congress.
“He is a sitting ambassador and employee of State and is required to follow their direction,” Sondland’s attorney Robert Luskin said.

Related posts

Avoid skin-lightening creams ‘at all costs’

BBC Image copyright Getty Images

Consumers are being warned to steer clear of skin lightening creams that can “act like paint stripper”.

The Local Government Association warns the products should be “avoided at all costs” after recent seizures by trading standards officers.

Many contained the bleaching agent hydroquinone – the creams can also contain mercury.

The British Skin Foundation said people should speak to a doctor if they had any concerns about their skin.

The LGA says the toxic products are being sold by rogue retailers, as well as online and at car boot sales and market stalls.

And they do not always spell out the correct levels of ingredients, putting consumers at risk.

Hydroquinone, described by the LGA as “the biological equivalent of paint stripper”, can remove the top layer of skin, increasing the risk of skin cancer, and cause fatal liver and kidney damage. Mercury can cause similar life-threatening health problems.

Unless they are issued on prescription by a doctor, creams containing hydroquinone, steroids or mercury are banned in the UK – because of their potentially serious side-effects.

‘Avoid at all costs’

The LGA highlighted several recent seizures including –

  • The seizure of 360 products from a store in Dagenham, some of which contained hydroquinone. Ingredients were listed incorrectly and failed to meet EU regulations. The store’s owners were fined £6,500 and ordered to pay £8,010 to the council
  • Southwark Council seized about 2,900 skin-whitening products, most of which had been imported directly from Nigeria, in a single raid in 2018. It also saw what is believed to be the UK’s first jail sentence for the sale of dangerous skin lightening products
  • A quarter of a tonne of illegal skin lightening products were seized at Gatwick Airport after arriving from Cameroon. Samples were found to contain hydroquinone

But the LGA said the ability of trading standards officers to keep on top of the problem was being threatened by cuts to council budgets.

Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Skin creams containing banned ingredients are very dangerous and could seriously damage your health, scar you for life and even kill you, so they should be avoided at all costs.

“Consumers should always check the ingredients of their skin creams, be suspicious of very low prices which are likely to indicate the lotion is fake and potentially harmful, and never use a product containing hydroquinone.

“If the product doesn’t display the ingredients at all, then don’t use it.”

He added: “Councils have been targeting rogue retailers selling these banned creams and people should report any concerns so that town halls can take action to prevent anyone from buying these lotions, potentially ruining their looks forever.”

Lisa Bickerstaffe, a spokeswoman for the British Skin Foundation, said the issue of illegal skin lightening creams came up “year after year”.

She added: “It’s difficult to know whether the problem is increasing due to the illicit way the products are sold under the counter and online.

“Ingredients in these cosmetics can cause serious health problems and the British Skin Foundation strongly advises against using them.

“Speak to your dermatologist or GP if you have any concerns about your skin tone and they will be able to advise accordingly.”


Have you used skin lightening creams? Share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Or use the form below:

Related posts

Scottish Labour leader calls for clarity on Brexit

BBC
Image caption Richard Leonard was speaking to the Sunday Politics Scotland programme

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said his party should have a clear policy to remain in the EU.

Speaking on the Sunday Politics Scotland programme, he said “clarity” was need before Labour put its case to voters.

The Scottish government has, meanwhile, asked for further funding to cope with a possible no-deal Brexit.

The UK government said money would be available where Scotland faces disproportionate costs.

In his television interview, Mr Leonard called for Labour to say its preference was to remain in the European Union.

“We recognise there are parts of the UK – and the overall result was to leave,” he said.

“But I do think that we need clarity in our position.

“So you would expect me to be arguing, as I am, that means we need to be clearer in our position going into any public vote.”

Mr Leonard added: “The Scottish Labour party took a decision frankly in the wake of the European party election results that we needed to be much clearer, that we needed much greater clarity about the position that we were taking.

“For that reason the Scottish executive of the Labour party backed my proposal that we call for an affirmative vote that any deal should go back to the public; secondly, that on that vote there should be a remain option; and thirdly, that we would campaign unambiguously for remain.”

Contingency fund

His comments came as the Scottish government said more money would be needed if the UK crashed out of the EU without a deal.

It has requested £52m from a contingency fund to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

Money from the EU Exit Operational Contingency Fund has been made available ahead of Britain’s departure from the European Union on 31 October.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay reiterated the Scottish government’s opposition to any form of Brexit.

He also asked that additional costs associated with it are met including those beyond the end of next month.

Mr Mackay said: “The UK government now seems to be actively pursuing a ‘no-deal’ outcome which is utterly unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs.

“We have requested £52m from the UK government’s fund to help us prepare for a ‘no-deal’ outcome.

“This is the minimum requirement for operational activity but the real costs of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will massively outweigh these and further funding will be required.”

‘Disproportionate costs’

He also said leaving the EU was not Scotland’s choice and called for any related costs to be covered by the UK government.

Mr Mackay added: “The Scottish government should not have to cut spending on public services to fund Brexit preparations.

“As a responsible government, we are already taking steps to protect jobs and our economy from a ‘no-deal’ Brexit and we will set out those plans to parliament shortly but we are facing additional and disproportionate costs to mitigate the impact of such an outcome.

“We will continue make the case for staying in the EU and will stand firm against efforts to take us out against our will.”

The request includes funding to support the effect of no-deal on rural communities, increased demand on Marine Scotland and Police Scotland activities, additional communication to EU citizens in the country, and poverty mitigation measures.

‘Supporting a deal’

A Scottish Conservatives spokesman said: “In 2016, the UK electorate voted to leave the EU.

“Only the Scottish Conservatives have worked to prevent no-deal by supporting a deal.

“The SNP were given £92m for our councils to prepare for Brexit.

“Yet there is no evidence Scottish local authorities have received anything at all.”

It comes after Scotland’s chief economist on Friday predicted a potential £2bn loss of investment because of Brexit.

Forecasts up to April 2020 in the Scottish government’s quarterly State of the Economy Report show £500m of investment could be wiped out if uncertainty continues with the figure rising by the end of the year.

A spokeswoman for the UK government said: “We have allocated the Scottish government nearly £140m in funding for EU exit preparation.

“We will consider the Scottish government’s further bid under the £1bn Operational Contingency Fund in the usual way.”

Related posts