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Ethnic minorities call for People’s Vote amid Brexit worries

by Tehmina Kazi | 11.10.2018

Belonging to an ethnic minority in the UK encompasses a whole range of diverse experiences and issues. But whichever community you come from, the chances are you’ll have concerns about Brexit. Addressing these worries, and getting ethnic minority voices heard, is the driving force behind the new campaign Ethnic Minorities for a People’s Vote.

A number of Brexit-related issues have disproportionately affected ethnic minorities. One high-profile example is the broken promises to curry house owners during the referendum. They were regaled by Vote Leave’s “save our curry houses” campaign with pledges to increase work permits for non-EU migrant workers after Brexit. Current post-Brexit immigration plans, clamping down on low-skilled migration from anywhere, has betrayed their trust.

Meanwhile, the severe labour shortage in the curry industry continues. Discussions with industry leaders by People’s Vote shows that they think this crisis will never be prioritised, thanks to the constant focus on Brexit.

But the unfairness perceived in this “two-tier” immigration system between EU and non-EU migrants goes beyond this Indian restaurants’ staffing shortages. It goes to matters of the heart: many African, Asian and Caribbean heritage people have expressed resentment at the apparent ease with which “white Europeans” can bring over spouses or family members from their countries of origin. By contrast, the minimum income threshold for British citizens to bring over a spouse from outside the EEA is £18,600. This has caused hardship and separation for tens of thousands of families.

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Another unwelcome consequence of Brexit was a spike in racial hate crimes and hate incidents – not just towards EU citizens, but also people of Asian, African and Caribbean heritage. Informal attempts to monitor hate crime, for example the “Worrying Signs” Facebook group (currently at over 17,500 members), have since been validated by official figures. Hate crimes spiked by almost a third in the year after the referendum, according to Home Office statistics.

Minority groups could also face problems with racial and religious discrimination in the labour market after we leave the EU. While the Equality Act 2010 shields people from workplace discrimination, it is not buttressed by a constitutional bill of rights. Previously the EU and its courts filled this role. After Brexit, hard-won protections could be rolled back by the government of the day.

Rights currently protected by the EU for temporary or zero-hours workers, who are more likely to be from ethnic minority backgrounds, could also be on the line if a hard-right, pro-deregulation government came to power.

Of course, more general Brexit concerns affect ethnic minorities too. For example, having spoken to ethnic minority leaders, People’s Vote found opportunities for their children and grandchildren’s future was a real worry. If Brexit goes ahead without freedom of movement guarantees, these opportunities will inevitably shrink, with many EU jobs potentially off-limits to UK workers.

If ethnic minorities in the UK want to resolve these issues, their best option is to loudly demand a People’s Vote on Brexit. Hardly anyone anticipated the Pandora’s Box of issues Brexit has opened. There’s no shame in changing your mind when all the facts are on the table. If people don’t like what Brexit means in reality, they should say so.

And the best way to show your support is to join the tens of thousands of people expected at the People’s Vote March for the Future on October 20 in London. It should be the biggest – and most diverse – march for a People’s Vote yet. So spread the word, bring your friends, and march with us!

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

4 Responses to “Ethnic minorities call for People’s Vote amid Brexit worries”

  • All those foreign born people and children of immigrants who were allowed the vote during the 2016 referendum and who voted to leave, could have known about the largely xenophobic character of the pro-Brexit movement. Which indeed was substantiated by events mentioned in this article, as the “people” felt that unleashing foreigner hate had been approved by the Brexit result. I hope that those immigrants who did vote to leave have the guts to query their motives. And don’t mention having been lied to too often; everybody had been lied to but truth was available all the time. You had to use your brain to sift nonsense and fancy from cold facts about the EU and being a foreign national in this country. In itself the UK was not worse than other nations, but Brexit did change a lot for the worse and it will not get any better after March next year. Try to get your head around that now!

  • I can understand the resentment to the perceived unfairness of EU and non EU immigrant status. However, surely the answer is not to do away with our rights and responsibilities as EU citizens? Instead lobby your MP, politicise and demonstrate on the streets to attempt to improve the rights for Commonwealth citizens and call out Theresa May’s hostile environment. By fuelling resentment and division Leave campaigns have reduced if not destroyed our current rights to freedom of movement which works both ways, thereby limiting all our life choices including those of our children and grandchildren.

  • There’s a reason non-EU migration has been made so difficult in recent years – pressure from Daily Mail, and Express, and people like Farage, who’ve whined and moaned about “immigrants” continually for years. That forced the last government to say they’d try and get numbers down, and now look what happened – the Windrush scandal. Most Leave politicians aren’t really the friends of commonwealth migrants, they’re just picking off migrants one group at a time, divide and conquer.

    Another way to look at it, is something an Australian and a Russian with British citizenship pointed out to me. By becoming British citizens (and paying plenty for it) they became also EU citizens, with the right to live and work and study all across the EU. The citizenship test included next to nothing about this. But anyone who has acquired British citizenship is losing all these valuable rights along with the rest of us Brits. The Russian said he’d have to earn citizenship of somewhere else now, because his business operates across the EU. He was most unhappy.