Current Affairs

Peter Tatchell: We can’t let Brexit undermine EU efforts on LGBT rights

Peter Tatchell June 24, 2016
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Peter Tatchell reflects on the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

The impact of Brexit on LGBTI people in the UK will be small.

In the past, when successive British governments refused to repeal anti-LGBTI laws, the EU was often an ally and defender of LGBTI rights; for example, forcing the UK to outlaw sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace in 2003. But now that we’ve won near equality in the UK, the EU is less significant for LGBTI rights in Britain.

The victory of the Leave campaign is a victory for the Right, many of whom have not been traditional supporters of LGBTI equality.

UKIP and most anti-EU Conservative MPs opposed equal marriage just three years ago. We could see more restrictions on refugees being given asylum in the UK, including LGBTI ones fleeing persecution in countries like Syria, Belarus, Iran and Uganda.

If the UK’s exit from the EU triggers more countries to leave, it will weaken the EU and this will undermine the important work the EU does supporting fragile LGBTI rights in countries such as Ukraine, Turkey, Poland and many developing countries.

I supported Remain but wanted major reform of the EU to make it more decentralised, democratic and accountable. Moreover, the EU has been too focused on corporate interests.

I’ve advocated a ‘People’s Europe’, with a greater emphasis on human rights, jobs, housing, education, health-care, environmental protection, support for refugees and action against global poverty.

The Remain campaign lost because it was arrogant, took people for granted and, most importantly, failed to set out agenda for EU reform.

The EU is imperfect but it is a noble ideal, with countries coming together to work in cooperation to tackle the common trans-border problems we face.

Much of the Brexit vote was a popular rebellion against the political establishments in Britain and Europe.

Many of the Leave supporters were expressing their anger at years of industrial decline, the loss of secure employment and the way the political elites have ignored their welfare.

I sympathise with their sentiments but don’t agree that leaving the EU is the solution.

The public have spoken and that’s democracy.

Now we must all unite to work for a fairer Britain, where the neglected have-nots get their fair share of the nation’s wealth.

We must continue to collaborate with neighbouring European countries to stop scapegoating migrants and refugees for all the ills we face, and tackle the real culprits: the corporate criminals who have fleeced the country, and their political allies who have allowed them to get away with it and imposed austerity on the rest of us.

Our struggle for social justice continues.

We need to build an EU-wide coalition for progressive EU reform. Britain’s go-it-alone reform demands were always bound to fail.

They were selfish, special pleading that ignored the interests of people in other EU member states. If people all across the EU demand reform, the EU will have to concede.

Let’s unite to demand reform in Britain, the EU and Europe-wide.

More: EU, EU Referendum, Europe, European Union, Gay, LGBT, Peter Tatchell, Sex, Sexuality

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