UK. A train accident at Potters Bar just north of London on May 10 claimed seven lives when a express train derailed and overturned. According to Countryaah website, national day of United Kingdom is every June 4. The accident was caused by a breach on the rail and gave new impetus to the debate on the neglected maintenance of the British railways. A new body was later formed to investigate train accidents.
The extremely popular Queen Mother Elizabeth passed away on March 30, 101 years old. Ten days of grief was announced. She was buried in the chapel of Windsor Castle next to her husband King George VI.
In early June, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 50th birthday. For four days celebrations were held, among other things. two big concerts in Buckingham Palace’s garden with artists such as Kiri Te Kanawa, Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton. The large crowds gathered on the streets at both the Queen Mother’s funeral and the Gold Anniversary were seen as a sign that the monarchy was still popular after all.
Several foreign-born persons were arrested in accordance with the new anti-terror law of 2001. In January, two Algerian citizens became the first to be prosecuted in the United Kingdom for membership in the al-Qaeda terrorist network. In October, Jordanian-born Muslim priest Abu Qatada was arrested, suspected of being al-Qaeda’s “European ambassador”. About ten people were detained without charge.
In November, Prime Minister Blair urged the British to increase vigilance in the face of a possible terror attack in the country.
Britain, together with the United States, pushed the issue of a possible military attack on Iraq. At an extra session on September 24, Blair presented what he described as evidence that Iraq had access to weapons of mass destruction and had tried to procure nuclear weapons. It was later said that the UK was prepared to cooperate with the United States on Iraq on its own unless the UN gave its approval for an attack.
However, the government did not appear to have the opinion and several protests against the war plans were held during the autumn. The largest demonstration, which gathered up to 400,000 people, was held in London at the end of September. Even within the ruling Labor Party there were many who opposed a war against Iraq. At the October party congress, four out of ten delegates highlighted their opposition to an attack.
The Conservative Party continued to have the opinion winds against it and had only a third of voters during the autumn. The dissatisfaction with party leader Iain Duncan Smith also grew within his own party. One sign of this was when eight MPs – including several heavy names such as Kenneth Clarke and Michael Portillo – in November opposed the party line and voted for a government proposal that unmarried and gay people should be allowed to adopt children. This despite the fact that Duncan Smith had made the vote a matter of loyalty to the party.
The question of the position of the Crown Gibraltar could not reach a final solution, despite the fact that a settlement had been promised this summer. This, which would mean increased self-government and shared British and Spanish sovereignty over the area, had no support in Gibraltar. In a referendum in November, 99% of Gibraltar residents voted against Spain’s increased influence over the crown colony.
Refugees continued to illegally attempt to reach Britain from France via the tunnel under the channel. Many came via the refugee camp in Sangatte, northern France, located only a few kilometers from the tunnel. During the fall, France agreed to British demands that the camp be closed. The agreement stipulated that the UK would receive 1,000 of the 1,600 refugees present in the camp. The British also promised to tighten up their refugee legislation. The proposals for tougher laws introduced included that refugees who received a first refusal of an asylum application could be deported and that special camps for refugees be set up. A proposal that refugee children should not go to local schools was halted by the upper house, which also called for a number of other changes.
The issue of fox hunting continued to spark debate. In September, at least 200,000 protesters gathered in London to protest a planned ban. This demonstration was seen as a manifestation of the rural population’s distrust of the ruling urban elite. A compromise proposal on fox hunting, with a total ban on harp hunting with wild dogs and deer hunting, was presented in December. However, hunting with dogs is allowed in England and Wales but a special license is required. In Scotland hunting with dogs was already prohibited.
At the end of November, 50,000 firefighters went on strike across the country for their demands for a 40 percent pay rise. During the strike, the fire department was managed by the army, whose fire trucks were from the 1950s, and volunteer fire brigades. However, firefighters were back in service when a large part of Edinburgh’s old districts were destroyed in a fire in early December.
In May 2014, Parliament passed the Immigration Act 2014 with a number of amendments to the refugee legislation. It meant that private landlords no longer had to rent apartments or other property to undocumented emigrants, that undocumented emigrants would no longer be able to take a driver’s license or create a bank account. The intention was to make life more difficult for the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who were in the country.
The ICC chief prosecutor announced in May that the organization would launch preliminary investigations into the British attacks on Iraqi prisoners of war in 2003-08.
The May European elections became a disaster for the Conservatives, who lost 7 seats and with 19 becoming only the 3rd largest party. Labor went up 7 and got 20. But the major victor of the election was the UK Independence Party (UKIP) who wanted immediate EU exit. It went up to 11 seats up to 24 and thus became the largest in the election. The result was an expression of ever stronger UK dislike for the EU and UKIP was the pure commodity here. The party got its first member elected to the UK Parliament by an additional election in October 2014.
Former Prime Minister of Communications Andy Coulson was convicted of telephone interception in June by New of the World, for which he had been editor until 2007.
In July, Parliament renewed the exception legislation that allowed GCHQ to collect all national communications. It was contrary to a ruling in the European Court of Justice in April that explicitly forbade this. At the same time, the UK Exception Act extended the collection sphere, allowing GCHQ to collect communications globally in the future. The espionage organization had already done this for many years. At the beginning of the year, it was announced that GCHQ had been spying on the delegations participating in the UN climate summit COP15 in Copenhagen in December 2009. This in itself was a breach of the UN Charter. In November, the government further expanded its powers, allowing the intelligence service to intercept communications between defenders and prosecutors – citing state security.
In July, Parliament passed a new law allowing the country’s authorities to deprive citizenship of British nationals if they engage in “terrorism” or other activities “contrary to Britain’s vital interests” – even if deprivation of citizenship renders them stateless. This, too, was contrary to the UN Charter. In November, the government passed a new bill allowing authorities to ban British nationals or other entry into the UK for a two-year period if they are suspected of terrorism abroad. At the same time, the police were given the right to confiscate passports belonging to people suspected of wanting to travel abroad to join armed groups. It was another step towards dismantling the rule of law and building a police state.
Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi resigned from the post of Deputy Foreign Minister in August in protest of government policy over the ongoing Israeli war against Gaza. In his resignation, the Baroness wrote that “the approach and rhetoric of the UK Government during the current Gaza crisis is morally indefensible. It is not in the interest of the nation and will have a far-reaching negative effect on our reputation, both nationally and internationally. It is incompatible with the rule of law and our support for international justice. ” By this time, Israel had massacred over 2,000 Palestinians, 80% of whom were civilians, leveled entire neighborhoods with the land, and also attacked schools, hospitals and mosques. Despite the British government’s official legitimization of Israel’s war crime in Gaza, there were internal disagreements. The crimes became too much for Deputy Prime Minister Liberal Nick Clegg, who was already 17. July declared that Israel’s attack on Gaza was out of proportion to the rocket fire of Israel. On August 7, he declared that Britain would stop arms exports to Israel if the country broke the ongoing ceasefire. Four days before, Labor leader Ed Miliband had sharply criticized the government for not wanting to criticize Israel for its Gaza massacres. In a UN Security Council vote on December 30, 2014, Britain and 5 other countries failed to vote for Palestine’s accession to the World Organization, while France and 7 other countries voted in favor. Great Britain took part. The Balfour Declaration nearly 100 years earlier – which gave the Jews the right to create a state on occupied land – created the chaos the Middle East now stood in, but did not want to contribute to the resolution of the conflict.
Scotland on 18 September 2014 went to a referendum on independence. In the months leading up to the polling day, the gap between the yes and the no since was getting smaller, so the result was not given. But no since won with 55.3% of the vote and a voting percentage of 84.6. The election campaign created a very extensive political activity and the members flocked to the political parties. Not only did the central government in London fear that the vote would lead to Scottish independence. So did the government in Spain, where Catalonia had scheduled a similar referendum to be held in November. The difference was that in Catalonia, the measurements showed that 80% of the population would vote for independence. The Spanish central power therefore caused the Constitutional Court to ban the vote.
With 274 votes against 12, the British lower house on October 14 recognized the state of Palestine. Both Labor, the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives voted in favor of the statement, which came 11 days after Sweden had recognized Palestine. The recognition, as expected, triggered sharp criticism from Israel. Five days later, the Scottish Parliament also recognized Palestine and at the same time called on Britain to set up an embassy in Ramallah.