Britain’s BAME community will fall through the cracks due to Brexit

Brexit will exacerbate poverty, austerity and social tensions - all of which hit BAME people the hardest. By Bethany Morris.

May 29, 2019 · 6 min read

The uncertainty of the Brexit outcome has left many members of the BAME community (Black and minority ethnic community) feeling doubtful and insecure about their British citizenship and identity. Partnered with a surge in hate crime and socio-economic disparity since the 2016 referendum, the future of the community within the UK appears more hostile and uncertain than most could have ever anticipated.

Research conducted by Race Research concluded that the community will be hit hardest by austerity, economic poverty and will additionally become the primary targets of racially aggravated abuse. The 2016 referendum sparked the revival of some discriminatory beliefs that the UK should diminish racial diversity in favour of a ‘pre-immigration white era’. Many argue that this was the result of the leave campaign peddling a stream of anti-immigration rhetoric, which has isolated the BAME community even further and, as reported by the British Police, has seen a 42% increase in reported hate crime since the referendum – the highest rate of hate crime ever reported in the UK. With allegations of racism rife within leading political parties too, Rose Simkins, chief executive of ‘Stop Hate UK’ has urged parties to ‘tone down’ inflammatory rhetoric as new figures revealed an increase in racial and religiously aggravated abuse on rail and tube services throughout London.

The use of such incendiary tropes in British politics has led to a culture of normalising racist abuse, and it is an increasingly concerning prospect that this could be further exacerbated post-Brexit too. It has been reported that the British police have been trialling plans to implement 10,000 officers to be available to respond to an increase in disorder and hate crime if we leave the EU with no deal. These preparations themselves serve as an alarming reminder for the BAME community of the surge in racial abuse. With figures such as Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson gaining support, and The Brexit Party leading in EU election polls, it is feared that the sort of anti-immigration and racist rhetoric that these figure heads have both supported and enabled, could present further risks to minorities in the UK after Brexit. In addition to the risks posed by increased racism, according to a new survey, 52% of BAME individuals fear that their career prospects may be negatively impacted by Brexit. At present, the 2010 UK Equality Act legally protects minorities from workplace discrimination. However, as the law is not reinforced by a constitutional bill of rights, it could easily be repealed post-Brexit. These issues further exacerbate issues surrounding financial and employment security for members of the BAME community.

According to January research, minority job seekers have to submit 80% more applications than their white counterparts to gain a positive response. In an already hostile and bleak economic environment, BAME people are again at a disadvantage in terms of their socio-economic status. It has been estimated that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, GDP would reduce by around 8% over the next 15 years under WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules. The Institute of Fiscal Studies predicts that the prospect of a hard-Brexit could leave workers at an increased risk of job loss if they are employed in ‘plant and machine operations’- an area of employment where Pakistani and Bangladeshi men are two times more likely to work compared to white British men.

When considering current immigration procedures, the BAME community is again falling short in terms of receiving equal treatment. BME Ethnicity discovered that minority individuals faced a much longer application process when they come to fill a Spouse Visa or Fiancé Visa application. The points-based immigration system that is currently in place puts non-EU citizens at a great disadvantage as they often face unattainable visa requirements and income thresholds just to migrate spouses and other family members to the UK. As a minimum, applicants must earn at least £18,600 to be eligible for a visa which 41% of the British population currently don’t meet. In a household income study conducted last year, black households were most likely out of all ethnic groups to fall below the average weekly income. After Brexit and when the immigration rules apply to EU citizens too, this makes it near-impossible for BAME EU applicants to satisfy visa requirements. When the system is prejudiced, favours salary over skills and operates under such intense hostility, the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against minorities favour.  

The Race Disparity Audit discovered that whilst two in three white British households own their homes, only two in five households from any other ethnic group do so. To make things worse, it has also been reported that the poorest black and Asian families in the UK will suffer a staggering 20% drop in living standards by 2020. It is evident then that life for the BAME community post-Brexit holds little promise of prosperity and security. Despite assurances from the Conservative government that austerity is nearing the end of its reign of disparity and inequality, there appears to be little evidence to support such claims. Another increase in the personal tax allowance will serve to benefit the richest members of society the most, and if the Government cuts public spending to concord with the predicted fall in GDP post-Brexit, the community could be punished even further. Echoing this, the 2018 Intersecting Inequalities report found that BAME individuals are the most affected by ‘cuts to public services and austerity changes to tax and benefits’. Although no official impact assessments have been conducted to analyse the effects that cuts to public spending would have on the BAME community, it would be fair to assume that they face an even greater risk of being plunged further into income poverty after Brexit.

Without any concrete commitments from the Government to ensure that the rights of minority citizens will be adequately insured after Brexit, our nation risks stumbling backwards into an environment where enabling racial abuse and failing victims becomes normalised. The Pandora’s box of racial discrimination and bigotry is beginning to open, and with some political figures spearheading campaigns to enable such chauvinism rather than actively attempting to defuse tensions, a swift and effective response from Government is crucial to ensure that the rights of ethnic minorities are protected sooner rather than later.


Bethany Morris is part of  Immigration Advice Service – an organisation of leading UK immigration solicitors. | @IASimmigration

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