From broken promises to curry house owners to a spike in hate crimes, there are plenty of Brexit concerns for minority communities.
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 curry house crisis. 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” could 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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After the referendum there was a well-documented 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 repealed or encroached upon.
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!