Brexit: Insights into the latest issues from the Department of Social Sciences

In the aftermath of the EU referendum, experts from the Department of Social Sciences give their thoughts on Brexit, focussing on the key issues around voter representation, immigration and human rights. 

Posted: 3 August 2016

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Professor Bryony Hoskins, whose research focusses on citizenship and inequality said:

“The UK vote to leave the EU has presented UK politicians and political parties, and politicians from the remaining member states, with some fundamental questions about the European project and how to keep it stable and alive. It has also highlighted divisions within British society, the most notable of which is between different socio-economic classes.

In my opinion, there are two policy actions that must be addressed by policy makers in order to heal these divisions. The first is to put measures in place to improve the lives of the unemployed, low-qualified and low-waged so that they may have better opportunities for finding sustainable work.

The second is to ensure that the European and active citizenship agenda (which aims to ensure all people's voices are heard and their opinions are taken into account) needs to be prioritised to ensure that citizens are involved in decision making processes on issues that affect their lives. Citizens’ political involvement could be in decision making in their university or work environment or campaigning to change national or European policy. ”

You can read more of Professor Hoskins thoughts on the European Commission blog.

Dr Michal P. Garapich is a social anthropologist who specialises in issues relating to migration from Eastern and Central Europe to the UK:

“During the referendum many prominent voices in the leave campaign argued a UK vote for exit from the EU would result in tighter control of the country’s borders. However, there are grounds to argue that this is will not be the case at all. Brexit could in fact lead to more, not less immigration. There are two main reasons for this; the first is that given the uncertainty during this time, EU citizens could potentially speed up their settlement or migration plans before any new restrictions could be implemented.

The second is that the freedom of movement within the UK relies on the labour market demand that benefits casual and seasonal workers. My research into the 800,000 Polish citizens living in the UK demonstrates that at least 25% are seasonal migrants. As freedom of movement guarantees that migrants can respond to economic demand quickly, any restrictions will increase the costs of this circular strategy. It may become too risky for migrants to leave Britain with the uncertainty of whether they will be allowed back in. This may lead to rise in the already large number (some estimate over 1 million) of undocumented migrants in the UK, which means a further pressure for our policy makers to consider in light of the EU referendum aftermath.”

Find out more about Dr Garapich’s research here.

Dr Darren O’Byrne, Director of the Crucible Centre for Human Rights Research:

“Basic prejudices have been given a degree of legitimacy in the run-up to the vote and these were not adequately challenged by either the Remain or Leave camps. Part of the machinery for preventing the inexcusable racist assaults that followed the vote is human rights legislation, the legal articulation that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

As a member of the Council of Europe, the UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Human Rights Act, introduced in 2000, effectively takes the ECHR and embeds it in UK law. Whilst adherence to the ECHR (via membership of the Council of Europe) is a prerequisite for EU membership, a country can still remain committed to it and not be in the EU.

However, our commitment to the ECHR was already in a precarious state, long before the vote on EU membership. The Tory government has been promoting the idea of replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights, effectively a citizens’ charter which would render rights arbitrary and exclusive. The current Prime Minister has been an outspoken supporter of this. If we withdraw from the ECHR in favour of little more of than a citizen’s charter than would be a significantly backward step, because we would then lose the protection of our basic human rights such as our freedom of speech, freedom of religion and our freedom to vote. So, the full extent of the implications of “Brexit” for human rights still remains to be seen.”

Find out more about Dr O’Byrne’s work here. Visit the Crucible Centre for more of Roehampton’s work in the field of human rights.

About the Department of Social Sciences

The Department of Social Sciences offers outstanding undergraduate and postgraduate courses in sociology, criminology, human rights, and law. The active research team have made ground-breaking impact on society in many areas including human rights and equality, migration and citizenship, and international relations.

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