Brexit ‘would have dire consequences for disabled people’


By Raya Al Jadir and John Pring

Leaving the European Union (EU) would have “harmful” and “dire” consequences for disabled people, according to two of the first leading disabled figures to speak out on June’s referendum.

The UK will decide whether to leave the EU in a referendum on 23 June, but almost nothing has been said publicly about the potential impact of this vote on disabled people.

A search using the terms “Brexit” (a UK exit from the EU) and “disabled” on two of the most popular internet search engines, Bing and Google, failed to bring up a single reference to how leaving the EU would affect disabled people.

Deborah King, co-founder of Disability Politics UK, criticised the campaigns to leave and remain in the EU for failing to spell out “what the impact of Brexit would be on disabled people”.

She said: “We need to know the effects on our income – for example, if the economy took a nosedive, would we be facing yet more cuts?

“Would there be a rush to also withdraw from the European Convention [on Human Rights]as well? This has underpinned our rights in the bedroom tax cases.

“There are many unanswered questions.”

One disabled campaigner who has spoken out this week is Miro Griffiths (pictured), a former government adviser and project officer for the European Network on Independent Living, and now a lecturer, researcher and teacher.

He said he believed that Britain’s exit from the EU “would have dire consequences for disabled people”. 

Griffiths said the EU could be criticised on many issues, such as its failure to implement strategies to protect refugees who enter Europe, but “disabled people’s life chances would certainly not improve if we were to leave”.

By remaining, he said, disabled people can continue to use existing EU frameworks and directives to “continually challenge our state and the power it exerts”. 

He suggested that “sustained grassroots pressure” and “diplomatic dialogue” could lead to the EU challenging the damage caused by the UK government’s cuts to disabled people’s support.

Griffiths also said he feared that the “fetishism” of some Brexit supporters on the issue of UK “sovereignty” would lead to a post-Brexit UK government “imposing a concept of justice that reinforces and validates their actions, which will continue to oppress many groups”.

This could lead, he said, to disabled people becoming “voiceless – with reduced support from our European neighbours”.

Griffiths, a member of the British Council’s advisory panel for disability issues, said: “Many will argue that the EU is complacent in tackling the social injustice within many member states and I would agree with their analysis.”

But he added: “If we are isolated from our supporters in Europe then our resistance towards the state is merely interpreted as disobedience.” 

Another prominent disabled figure who has spoken out this week in favour of staying in the EU is the crossbench peer Lord [Colin] Low, who said: “I have no doubt that leaving the EU would be harmful to disabled people’s interests.

“There have been many occasions when European legislation has been ahead of the UK’s or what the UK was prepared to deliver.”

Many disabled people’s organisations have not had the time or resources to prepare a position on Brexit, although Disability Rights UK has promised to release a statement before June’s referendum.

Disability News Service has not yet found a disabled campaigner or user-led organisation in favour of Brexit, but two of the mainstream organisations campaigning to leave the EU commented briefly this week, although neither argued that there were benefits of Brexit that would solely apply to disabled people.

Jack Montgomery, a spokesman for Leave.EU, said: “We think that Brexit will be good for everyone in the UK.

“It will empower people to hold lawmakers directly to account by restoring the full range of decision-making powers to our elected representatives in parliament, and it will liberate funds currently spent on immoral EU programmes like the Common Agricultural Policy which can be better spent on things like inclusion schemes, research and public services.”

Edward Spalton, president of the Campaign for an Independent Britain, said: “Our view is that the UK’s own position on disability rights and practical support for disabled people is ahead of many EU countries. Of course, more can and will be done.

“The EU has a policy with similar aims to that of the UK legislation but in many countries its implementation [is]less advanced in practice than in the UK.

“So the position for people with disabilities with regard to EU membership is broadly the same as for the whole population.

“It is, of course, far easier to obtain improvements from our own parliamentary representatives, whom we elect and can dismiss, than from the remote and unsackable EU Commission. Again, this is true for the whole population, not just for those with disabilities.”

DNS is keen to hear from any disabled people or disabled people’s organisations with views on the likely impact on disabled people of leaving the EU

  • User Ratings (17 Votes)
  • I am a out disabled person. not because of immigration or most arguments it’s one reason alone TTIP i don’t trust the EMP’s not to vote that in. Once that’s done the NHS is gone no more our MP’s won’t sign it immune because they want it sold off to their mates. They all have private medical there allrite secret courts will give millions to business for any reason they feel they’re not making enough profit or shut out say like with the NHS!

    Personally i have to many American friends and we really don’t want their system you think you have to jump through hoops with the DWP wait and see what insurance companies are like. Canceling cancer treatment halfway thought etc Endless horror stories!

    • Stewart

      I think we need to stop thinking as disabled people but as British citizens and look at the state the EU has landed us in. we have no say and we have no control. Where has our Great British back bone gone, oh yeah it was surgically removed when we became controlled by the EU. Its no doubt that a vote to leave will see the government with its now formation currently in power, punish us all for voting against them but in a short time these people will be removed or voted out and we will once again be Great Britain

      • Kieth Louth

        Where are you living? All I’ve read on this page is take this back and as for the nhs that has nothing to do with Europe that’s been ruined by successive governments interfering and more management than frontline staff. What will we do when we don’t have enough people working paying taxes to even pay benefits or plant and pick crops in the fields ( done now by eastern Europeans because we won’t! ). Unfortunately you are in cloud cookoo land we haven’t had an empire in nearly a hundred years,why do you think we’re called the UK?

  • Lesley Crosby

    I approached Grassroots last week and they couldnt give me answers. I invited N Farage to speak to me if he came to Newcastle and answer my questions. HE, came , went and dint even accnowledge my facebook request
    So hypothetically the country votes out, it has been suggested CaMoron would have to stand down , where does that leave us? Without a credible alternative the current government would carry on, only with the country behind them and IDS and the Angel of Death, Prita Patel( yes she’s pro death penalty too)as “outers” in the thick of it and Boris Johnson whose politics are as predictable as the weather in charge
    So out of Europe they rewrite the Human Rights legislation, rig the constituency boundaries so the tories will never lose again and hey ho, we have ourselves a dictatorship…….let the bloodsports begin

  • srgc2731

    Rubish whats happening now
    All disabled are being reassessed to ESA jUST LIKE THE in Capacity BENEFIT CLAIMANTS
    After 1 yr ESA becomes means tested
    which for the majority means a reduction or total loss of benefits
    THe greatest threat to sick disabled and dying
    currently resides in no 10
    aged 61 retired medically 2005 after 34 + working years
    deformed hip / fused spine with plate damage at all levels / arthritic knees
    healed by atos 2012 awarded 15 points at tribunal 11 months later
    march 2013 ESA reduced to £21

  • carol Busby


  • robert hingston

    Again fear-mongering

  • Stephen Hobbs

    I notice my earlier comments were removed, probably due to a bit of bad
    language that might offend someone’ delicae sensibilities a I pointed
    out my own experience of ESA assessments in the UK over recent years.

    the assssments being falsely and incorrectly given by the assessors or
    staff behind the scenes, being assessed fit for work if you even manage
    to show up to the interview even after having asked to be assesed at
    home and your beenfits being cancelled and cut off if you don’t turn up
    for the assessment.

    These assessments then send you half of the
    information duplicated to seem like there is more when you appeal them
    and reappeal them in a continual cycle as the staff conrinue to mess the
    claimants around to create yet more jobs for themselves and the others
    within the assessment system.

    The lack of video surveillance of the assessments and the same sort of system in the work programme the contracts of which breach I.L.O legislation on forced or mandatory labour on several points including them involving ESA claimants that have already been assessed as unfit for work or even considered disabled, the use for undermining of local employment rates, it involving issues that are not considered a national crisis and the use of it to profit private individuals or companies, all of which constitute to contracts dished out by them that are not legally binding as they breach UK contract law that they must not breach UK laws to be legally acceptable (contract law 101).

    Also be aware that the work programme offers upto £400 to help those people seek employment by way of anything they mmight need but in my experience would not even pay for a passport renewal for me for a solid proof of id. FOr all I know it was a nice way to cover up frauds as they used claimants names to put £400 worth of materials or goods for their own local businesses or own personal use for thousands of claimants in most towns and possibly millions country wide.

    For all I know aainst the receipts I paid for I have purchased a new black dress, a pair of high heels and 100 car batteries because I had aims of becoming a transvestite door to door car battery salesman.

    More realistically according to the receipts against my names I possibly claimed the money back for a whole new football kit or new computers for a branch of private computer course that offered no real qualification that was failing miserably against a state funded college that gave proper qualifications just up the road.

    • Stephen Hobbs

      (*Oh pissant is not a swear word as such, it is actually the original word from which peasant evolved but because it involves the words “p*ss” (urine) and “ant”, ie . an individual small insignificant insect of no great importance, I dunno, I prefer to use it.. its a far better insult for the damned creatures. 🙂 )

  • Stephen Hobbs

    The one thing that can be said about the brexit is that if and when we leave the bastards responsible for nothing short of human rights crimes will no longer be able to hide behind the EU, though again its the staff messing things around creating mor employment for themselves that are actually the ones responsible.

  • Stephen Hobbs

    The real problem in the benefits system is the staff messing it around among themselves to create further employment for themselves ad their gaggle of cohorts at the expense of the claimants, the government’s main problem is it has a budget which invariably leads to cuts to the cliamants and not the staff as opposed to simply saying “We want one in three of the overpaid staff in each of your offices fired, you have one month to decide who it will be, if you haven’t done it by then we will just do it by picking your employee numbers from a hat.”