The discourse in the UK surrounding our favourite B word is farcical at best. As a nation, the divisions are running deep and the future of our political institutions are constantly being called into question. But what’s being forgotten throughout is the social impact that, not just the eventual result of Brexit will have, but the environment that the referendum and the turbulent political climate that has arisen as a result, has caused.
Brexit was a strong example of how when extreme, conservative views are given a platform and legitimised by a small minority, hate crimes rise and marginalised people grow fearful for their safety in public. What I want to know, is that if Brexit is meant to “give us back control”, then why are LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalised groups feeling like we are losing control when it comes to our safety as a result of the Brexit process?
Looking back to 2017, the Home Office released official statistics looking at the increase in hate crimes here within the UK. Looking at the figures from 2012-2013, there had been a recorded rise of reported hate crimes of 123 per cent, and more specifically looking at 2017, the year after the referendum campaign, a rise of 17 per cent on the year previous.
The Home Office stated that it was likely that the result and aftermath of the Brexit referendum was a factor in this rise. Fast forward to 2019, a month after the supposed Brexit date of 29 March, and we are still none the wiser as to what the future of LGBTQ+ people will be in the UK and Europe.
But the bitterest pill for me to swallow has been how the media discourse, and reasoning behind all of the options that MPs are being given surrounding Brexit and the withdrawal agreement, completely centre on questions of the economy.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s obviously of paramount importance that the economy, infrastructure, the NHS and our services in and out of Dover are in a healthy position post-Brexit, but what’s more important to me, and many other people on the streets, is that we are able to live in a society where we can be ourselves and don’t feel threatened.
But it’s not just the toxic Brexit culture that has left LGBTQ+ feeling afraid. Gay Star News published a report in 2018 titled “Brexit: The LGBT+ Impact Assessment” which looked at the ways in which the EU actually was a catalyst for many of the changes that we saw in the UK when it came to LGBTQ+ rights. It oversaw the introduction of the Amsterdam Treaty, which although still fairly conservative, ensured that discrimination based on sexual orientation was prohibited.
It also saw the Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR), which cemented certain protections for LGBTQ+ people. Wherever there was EU law, the CFR was upheld. I can’t help but think that although yes these laws were conservative initially, and didn’t offer specific protections for trans people and intersex people, it was a space where these laws and discussions – and thus progress – was being tabled, and then actually implemented across Europe.
With the UK government not having anything in plan to replace the CFR, we are left in a position where we feel like we are having, quite literally, rights stripped away, with nothing substantial being offered to replace it.
When we have a campaign that was not only based on lies, but found to be breaking the law and engaging in criminal activity, how can we then trust many of the MPs who were involved in that campaign to create a replacement for the Charter of Fundamental Rights?
LGBTQ+ rights in the UK have never been a priority, and as a member of that community, I can say that with my hand on my heart. Now more than ever, we are worried. Not just by the lack of action from our own government – and the worrying thought that EU protections for LGBTQ+ people will disintegrate – but the repercussions that this will have on the streets and in our workplaces, as Brexit continues to reveal the layers of division that this country has embedded within it.