On the 23 June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU. The UK government has now reached an agreement with the EU on citizens’ rights. The agreement will provide EU citizens and family members living in the UK certainty about their rights and, most importantly, allow them to stay here. There will be reciprocal protections for UK nationals living in the EU.
Leading up to the referendum, a number of the debates on both sides were divisive, inflammatory and fuelled uncertainty among the general population. The core issues that elicited the most differing and heated opinions centered on our struggling economy and current immigration policies – both of which were seen as being responsible for the lack of affordable housing and depressed wages by ordinary people.
Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) voters struggled to have a voice throughout the debate as both sides failed to understand the depths of the direct and indirect impact of Brexit on BAME groups. Sadly, this in itself raises concerns about the continued exclusion of BAME communities from the political process.
Since the referendum, there has been a dramatic increase in racial and religious offences in the UK. According to the National Lead on Hate Crime, reported crimes rose by 100%, while homophobic attacks rose by 147%. In March 2017, Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Brexit has given racism a new lease of life.”
These unacceptable figures demonstrate why we have to address the question of whether the Brexit vote will deliver a better outcome for the BAME community. The question requires guts, if it is to be answered truthfully.
The current principle of free movement is seen by some in the BAME community as discriminatory and divisive as it allows Europeans unrestricted access to the UK, while migration from the Commonwealth to the UK is far more onerous.
Post-Brexit, people migrating from Africa, the Caribbean and parts of the Pacific will also have to consider the difficulty of migrating to and from the UK, especially if they have been granted residence in an EU member state.
Younger members of the BAME community have unique concerns about the economic impact of Brexit as they face multidimensional disadvantages.
House prices have remained high in London. The market is slowing down in other regions but affordable housing is still beyond reach for many.
Organisations are freezing investments while trying to figure out what Brexit means for their future. The short-term impact will be fewer opportunities and more job losses, estimated at about 800,000.
Research carried out by the London School of Economics shows that transport costs will rise by almost 7%, which will filter through to increased food and clothing prices, as these rely on transportation.
The standard of living will fall for all, but will have a greater impact on middle and low-income groups. However, when race and poverty intersect, this raises a different and more complex set of issues.
Three quarters of black people and two thirds of Asian people voted to remain in the EU. These results show an uncomfortable cultural and social divide, and the BAME community was caught off guard by the deep resentment and hostility unleashed after the referendum.
While there is a lot of work to be done in fractured Britain, a step in the right direction may be to shine a spotlight on the valid concerns of the BAME community.