Brexit and disability rights: what negotiators need to ensure

Brexit and disability rights: what negotiators need to ensure

In 2016, before the Brexit referendum, the European Disability Forum expressed its strong commitment to a united Europe and our hope that the UK would remain within the EU. It was with regret that we acknowledged the results of the referendum.

In the last 3 years, we worked with several organisations, including disabled persons’ organisations in the UK, to study the impact of Brexit on disabled persons and we advocated to ensure the voices of disabled persons would be heard during the process.

The potential impact of Brexit led us to outline more clearly the benefits EU laws and policies have brought to disabled persons. We documented this in our publication: Your rights in the EU ( rights of persons with disabilities in the EU).

Now that the United Kingdom will exit the EU, we would like to repeat our demand: the rights of disabled peoples, and the most marginalized people, should not be negatively impacted. Negative impacts that we want to see avoided include loss of social security benefits, loss of access and availability of medicines, loss of funding to disability-related programs, and the loss of protection under EU law (such as passenger rights). An analysis of the potential risks by ECAS on the study “Outlining Possible Scenarios for a New UK-EU Relationship and their Impact on Citizens”, which we contributed to.

We call on EU and UK governments to bear in mind disabled persons’ rights when preparing the future relationship agreement.  We also call on UK government and EU countries to ensure that the processes to apply for settled status are fully accessible to disabled persons.

Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum said:

“It is now up to negotiators to ensure that our rights are guaranteed. They need to proactively involve disabled persons in the discussion.”

Pat Clarke, Vice-President of the European Disability Forum added:

“Free movement and transferability of benefits and services needs to be protected. Negotiators should have a comprehensive approach and not only focus on trade and economic issues.”

John Dolan, Chief Executive Officer of the Disability Federation of Ireland stated:

“Disabled persons’ will be disproportionately affected if there are shortages or price increases, especially in necessary items such as medicines. Negotiators need to avoid this at all costs.”

Kamran Mallick,  Chief Executive Officer of Disability Rights UK said:

“As an organisation DR UK has been neither for nor against Brexit since our members are as divided as everyone else in UK society. However we are all agreed that the rights of UK disabled people should not be diminished as a result of leaving the EU. Historically the UK has been a leader in the field of disability rights and we want that to continue. We are particularly concerned to ensure that the protections guaranteed to disabled people under international treaties are upheld.”

Note: This statement’s terminology regarding disability reflects the most common terminology used in the UK