Global Politics: Brexit’s Impact on Human Rights

On June 23rd 2016, the United Kingdom surprised the world with the results of its Brexit vote. Brexit, a shortened term meaning “Britain exit” determined whether or not the country would remain in the European Union through a once in a lifetime public referendum. With the results of the vote determining the nation would leave, the rest of the world is on its toes to see what will happen next and how it will impact them. Shia Rights Watch is particularly concerned with what Brexit means for the Middle East and for minorities across the UK and Europe.

One particular concern for SRW is the xenophobic roots of the Brexit vote — the fearful generalizations of the Islamic population causing an entire nation to turn its back on thousands who are literally dying to be there. Scholars have proposed that this EU exit, led by the political right of the nation, may lead the country to be dominated or at least right leaning with many future policies. In fact, after the vote was announced, a series of racist acts ignited across Britain directed at immigrants. Prior to the vote, the leading right party of Britain — The UK Independence Party created a billboard ad with a photograph of crowds of refugees waiting in Europe and the slogan “Breaking Point”. It echoed popular opinion that Britain is “full” and that Arab refugees are a danger to the nation. In a nation full of intolerance and nativist sentiments, there will only be an increase in the possibility for extremism, especially considering British Muslims largely voted to remain.

However, regarding refugees, Brexit will create a UK no longer party to the Dublin regulation. While part of the European Union, Britain could have deported asylum seekers to their first point of entry in a member state. For some, this could create an incentive to cross the channel. The UK has used this to deport over 12,000 people since 2003, and is lobbying against reform. There are also concerns for how Brexit will affect long term policy toward the Middle East, as Britain may now only focus on issues directly affecting the country, such as terrorism and refugees. This could mean the Middle East Peace Process may face more roadblocks in a post Brexit world. Additionally, an EU without Britain, which has the highest military expenditure in Europe and colonial ties to the Middle East, especially in majority Shia countries such and Iraq and Iran, could lead to less effective missions in Syria. Or, because of the UK being a link to the United States in many US-EU coalitions, European actions toward the Middle East could take a different military stance all together .

Additionally, whether Great Britain will remain with the European Convention on Human Rights or repeal the Human Rights Act and create a new UK bill of rights has come into question. The ECHR is an international court based from France that protects a variety of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and the HRA ensures these ECHR rights are contained in British laws. A complete withdrawal from the ECHR would deprive people in the UK from the possibility of bringing their human rights complaints to the European Court of Human Rights. However, it would not relieve the UK of the duty to comply with judgments already handed down by the European Court of Human Rights, for instance on prisoner voting. Nevertheless, The UK would also be setting a negative example so that the protection of human rights within Europe as a whole would suffer and minority rights could be at risk. Whether either of these contracts will be repealed is currently up in the air. For all that is known now, minorities across Europe have expressed anxious worries over what their future in a UK-less EU will look like.

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