Brexit leaves LGBT Brits at risk of having rights cut back

by Tris Reid-Smith | 24.04.2018

If LGBTI people think their gender identity or sexuality has little to do with what they stand to lose in the Brexit process, our new report will make worrying reading.

Gay Star News commissioned the report – Brexit: LGBTI Impact Assessment – from leading experts in LGBT human rights law.

It seemed clear to us that nobody in the UK Government was focused on LGBT people in this process, so we needed to look out for our community.

The report explains in detail how our membership of the EU has driven forward LGBT rights in the UK. For example, before the EU intervened, employers could sack lesbian, gay and bi staff with impunity.

The protections offered by the EU are wide-ranging. They touch on our freedom of movement, the recognition of our partners, access to asylum for LGBTs fleeing persecution, trans people’s pensions and so much more.

The UK Government has stated we will not lose LGBT rights on the day we exit the EU. But we will lose the EU’s guarantees on the rights we have. LGBT Britons have frequently relied on those guarantees and there is no UK constitution to replace them.

There are countless examples of countries legislating against LGBTs. The UK could well chip away at them in the guise of making us more competitive internationally. Were we to stay in the EU, our membership would block a homophobic or transphobic future government from undermining our hard-won rights in this way.

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The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is central to this. It is the strongest protection for LGBTI people currently available in international law. So the UK Government’s view they can jettison the charter as superfluous indicates trouble may lie ahead.

Moreover, Europe will no longer drive the agenda on sexuality and gender identity rights in the UK, as it has for two decades. Given these have been two decades of unparalleled progress, that is also worrying.

Finally, in leaving the EU, we are also leaving one of the most important bodies lobbying for LGBT rights around the world. What partnership may replace this? In this, as in so many other areas, we can’t hope to exercise the same influence on our own as we can as part of the world’s most important trading block.

Our report makes recommendations to the government, businesses and individuals.

Among these, we support a people’s vote on the final terms of the Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU. Assuming we do leave the EU, we should certainly retain the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. It’s vital that MPs do not overturn yesterday’s important amendment in the House of Lords to keep it.

But in the meantime, we call on individuals, organisations and businesses to advocate for the future they wish to see for LGBT people and others. We can see already that if we fail to act, the more extreme Brexiters will decide our fate. So we must do what we have always done as an LGBT community – take responsibility personally and collectively for the protection and promotion of our rights.

Tris Reid-Smith is director and editor-in-chief of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender global 24-7 news service Gay Star News.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “Brexit leaves LGBT Brits at risk of having rights cut back”

  • The broader question that arises is why are the Tories so keep to deprive us of our basic rights? What is so wrong with a prohibition on torture or a right to a fair trial? Are these ‘alien’ values? The Tories want to repeal the Human Rights Act & denounce the European Convention on Human Rights (which would necessitate withdrawing from the Council of Europe). What next, denounce the ICCPR? CEDAW? CERD? Is this what Global Britain stands for? Standing shoulder to shoulder with those other proponents of absolute sovereignty, those well-known defenders of liberal democratic values, S Arabia & N Korea. Hiding behind brexit are reactionary & malign forces that want to destroy the social state & do away with every progressive policy implemented since the early 20th century – the brexiteers have stated that this is their opportunity to transform the UK along Friedmannite lines. The UK will be turned into a version of Pinochet’s Chile.