Immigration and the effects of the EU Referendum and the Brexit Vote

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2017 National Black Members' Conference
19 September 2016
Carried as Amended

The EU Referendum on 23 June and the decision of the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union sent shock waves through communities with the immigration debate becoming ever more toxic. The campaign itself resulted in unacceptable language and propaganda being used about immigration generating fear, division and a ‘them and us’ rhetoric.

Since the result was announced there has been a dramatic increase in racial violence across the Country. The number of hate crimes recorded for the last two weeks in June 2016 spiked by 42 per cent on the previous year. The biggest number of recorded incidents came on 24 June – the day after the result – when there were 289 hate crime related incidents recorded.

With Scotland & Northern Ireland voting to remain and England & Wales voting to leave, the split has left Great Britain divided. The main political parties at this time are in disarray and there is a lack of political leadership. After years of austerity the electorate has shown a mood for change.

With the Conservative Party electing Theresa May as Prime Minister and the new evolved Brexit department, the sense of the unknown is still very much at the top of the political agenda. With the Labour Party’s internal turmoil, it will be up to the trade unions to bring some stability and clear vision.

Within the Black community we have to reflect and recognise that many within our community used their democratic right to vote to leave the EU which appeared to help fuel this meltdown of the political elite and had a significant breakdown within many families and communities.

The Labour Party – once the party of the working class and the poor, founded in Bradford where once the sounds of the machinery of the cotton mills could be heard, the poorest and the youngest of our nation applying their trade and the migrants that were immigrants from the Asian, West Indian and African Continents continued the profitable industry of that time, did not get their message to remain across to many of those communities

Soon after the result was announced UNISON called for unity and committed to hold the leave campaign to their promises–more money for the NHS, rights at work remaining intact and continuing to defend and protect workers and public services.

As discussions regarding the UK’s future relationship with Europe get underway, Black workers face a period of instability at home and at work. Our union has a role to play not just in continuing the fight for equality but in providing stability, unity and support to Black, and all workers.

The EU has been active in a number of human rights protections including employment and Anti-Discrimination law. Many of these protections, particularly those around Anti-Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability and age, have been incorporated into UK law by the Equality Act 2010. However Brexit will mean the EU law basis of these rights will disappear. This will not change the Equality Act or other UK legislation however if Parliament wanted to weaken such rights Brexit makes it much easier to do so given EU minimum standards of protection would no longer provide a ‘backstop’ to any changes.

Furthermore, whilst many of the rights in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) find their way into UK law through the UK Human Rights Act (and not EU law) the protection of these rights may be subject to change arising out of any Government plans to consult on repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights. Something that has been regularly threatened by the Conservative Government in recent years.

As we face a future outside the EU we must be vigilant against any attempt to weaken our human rights or equality legislation going forward. As Black members we have long campaigned for equality – in this political climate the challenges may be increasing but our determination is greater still.

Conference believes the ‘Hard Brexit’ pushed by UKIP and the right-wing of the Tory Party would be an unmitigated disaster – leading to job losses, price hikes, and hitting those who can least afford it hardest. We welcome UNISON’s initiative and report highlighting the EU referendum result and UNISON’s exiting the EU Strategic campaign and the current volatile and uncertain future.

That’s why this motion calls on the National Black Members’ Committee (NBMC) to pursue a number of key initiatives to tackle the principal of non-discrimination and equality and work with the NEC to ensure UNISON, through our Labour link, make this Government and other devolved Governments remain accountable to the masses and ensure we protect our Human Rights, Employment Rights and Civil Liberties. Conference recognises that the struggles that Black members face began long before any mention of an EU referendum.

We therefore call on the National Black Members’ Committee to:

1)Recognise that the issue of immigration and free movement of people will continue to be high profile and liaise with Regional Black Members’ Committees to share best practice and ideas on how to support members impacted by this and highlight the positive influence of immigration both to our public services and wider society.

2)Work with Labour Link to consider how we can encourage the Labour Party and other political leaders to acknowledge and address the issues most affecting our Black members’, e.g. falling incomes, insecure jobs, unaffordable housing and cuts to public services – which led to many feeling disengaged.

3)Continue to campaign against any form of racial violence, encouraging members to report such incidents and providing support to UNISON members who experience any form of hate crime.

4)Seek to work with Labour Link to gain a commitment from the Labour Party for a complete equality review and removing such parts of the law that increases the threat to our civil liberties or has a negative impact on equality legislation.

Submitted by: Greater London Region

NBMC Policy: Support