I woke up in what seemed like a parallel universe on the morning of Friday 24 June. First, Facebook told me the Brexit vote had won with a referendum result of 52% to 48%. A few minutes later David Cameron was resigning, next I saw a clip of Donald Trump arriving in Scotland to open a golf club! What was happening?😱 Don’t get me wrong I’m glad Dave is out but I wanted to have the opportunity to vote him out democratically via a general election. It was like a scene from Back to the Future Part II when Marty McFly wakes up in an alternative reality except Doc was not going to save us now.
Brexit affects my health, your health and the health of the UK in every way. I voted to remain because I like being part of an outward looking country, united in Europe in business and trade, a UK where people want to come and work (and British people want to stay and work) creating a strong economy. Also keeping a close relationship to address the likes of terrorism we have seen lately in France. I wanted to protect our human rights, the NHS, science, research and technology – all things which directly affect me as a disabled person with a degenerative illness. But things which affect all of us through our economy, the health of the UK if you will.
As a disabled person whose human rights are systematically being raped under this government, I was worried about the status of our human rights which currently include rights from the European Convention on Human Rights – much like many of our laws which are intertwined with European law. I worried that leaving the EU could lead to withdrawal from the ECHR too where many disability court cases make reference to eg: disability rights in bedroom tax cases.
Under Cameron’s government, sensationalist right wing media has fed us headlines of benefit scroungers and fake disabled people which has led to a hike in disabled hate crime. We seem to have conveniently forgotten about the economic crash due to big banks and the £billions in tax fraud by large corporations and instead seem happier blaming interchangeable groups of vulnerable people be it migrants, refugees, disabled people, or the unemployed. But hey, this is an age old proven tactic which worked for the likes of the Third Reich, so what’s good enough for them..? Due to a significant under reporting of disability hate crimes it is thought the true scale of the problem is huge.
“As many as 60,000 disability hate crimes could occur annually in the UK.” The Coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network
Nevermind, providing a scapegoat for the country’s economic ruin was the perfect opportunity to sow harsh welfare reform! 👏 Currently, disabled people are being deemed ‘fit for work’ via horrific disability assessments carried out by private companies such as Atos and Capita hired by the government. Discounting medical evidence, assessors earn up to £20,000 a month receiving bonus incentives for every disabled person they deem fit for work. This was exposed in Channel 4 Dispatches earlier this year along with derogatory attitudes to disabled people. In the documentary, Alan an assessor (pictured below) described a disabled claimant as needing “help to wipe her a*** because she’s too f****** fat to do it herself”.
As a result of these assessments, disabled people are left in dire poverty, lose access to care, have degenerated health, and thousands have died either through committing suicide or from their illness. One being my friend’s aunt who, extremely ill with Sickle Cell Anaemia and attached to a drip, endured a humiliating disability assessment where she left in tears, distraught and was declared ‘fit for work’. Three months later she died, barely 40 yrs old. So obviously NOT fit for work. The disabled community has known about these assessments for years but if you speak to the average able bodied Joe on the street hardly anyone is aware this is happening. So you see why I do not want to give complete autonomy to our government. As a disabled person I cannot trust them not to target the most vulnerable in society to detract from the corruption of the rich.
I also voted remain in support of our NHS (who also wanted to remain). 10,000 health professionals in the NHS – doctors, consultants, surgeons, nurses and porters, who I see on a regular basis hail from the EU. As do 30,000 top scientists who work here at our world renowned research universities.
In fact just the week beforehand I was celebrating with my clever friend and immunologist, Dao Nguyen for her exciting ground breaking research at University College London, part of the Russell Group of 24 universities regarded as Britain’s elite institutions. She has literally changed science as we know it! After three years of research into Rheumatoid Arthritis biologic drugs (not why I am friends with her I promise 😉) Dao discovered that “Humira works not just by inhibiting its target protein TNF, but by enhancing a particular function of TNF in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients”. This helps scientists further understand this super complex disease thus leading to future advances in treatments for people like me and potentially other degenerative and life threatening illnesses, so yes, a pretty big deal indeed!👍
Dao is now a bit of a superstar in the science world and her research ranks in the top 5% of worldwide research outputs scored by Altmetric. However since Friday 24 June she has been worried about her UK status as she is originally from Switzerland. On the morning of the Brexit results many of her colleagues were informed that their EU funded Horizon 2020 research grants had been cancelled which means they will have to leave the UK. Research grants which brought in £850m into the UK by the way.
The months leading up to the EU referendum, the science community told us this would happen but the immediate effects were astonishing to all, we were losing the cream of the crop. Brexit also means Britain no longer has any influence over the European Medicines Agency, the regulator that approves drugs for use within the EU. Life saving and life changing treatment like my biologic drugs. Just a few days ago it was reported that Great Ormond Street Hospital are pleading with the government to secure a deal with Europe to allow life saving research to continue at the hospital. This news is horrendous for people like me who rely on this research but also for the country as a whole. It’s very sad the UK is no longer a world leader in science and medical research.
“The backlash against UK researchers began immediately after the June referendum when the failure to plan for a post-Brexit Britain cast serious doubts over the chances of British organisations winning future EU funding. British researchers receive about £1bn a year from EU finding programmes such as Horizon 2020, but access to the money must be completely renegotiated under Brexit” The Guardian
Earlier in the year I visited Bristol University Robotics Laboratories (BRL) as a guest with my partner who has an agritech start up business. BRL is one of the biggest robotic labs in Europe and a collaboration of University of West England and University of Bristol (also in the Russell Group). We saw amazing, mind blowing projects currently being worked on. These super talented men and women make The Big Bang Theory guys look like simpletons. However with funds tight due to government cuts to university research and development, much of their funding came from the EU.
Surely it is in the best interest of all humans to have the best minds in the world working together to produce advanced health technologies and future innovations for the world to share? The UK will not just lose bright minds from the EU, but also British born doctors, scientists and bankers who will leave to find greater opportunities abroad – the very reason people used to be attracted the UK. Businesses are already planning to move out of the UK for better European relationships. If they all leave what will happen to our NHS, our medical research and our economy?
Another reason for wanting to remain was I heard no valid reason to leave. The two main arguments were; 1) £350 million a week to be spent on the NHS and 2) immigration. On face value the first one didn’t add up as the NHS were in favour of remain. Farage also backtracked on spending £350 million on the NHS the morning of the result, and rightly so because it was a bullshit figure from the outset and he knew it.
According to InFacts we should take into consideration the rebate the UK gets back from the EU and £350m suddenly drops to £250m. Figure in various pots we also receive from the EU for poorer parts of the UK, such as Cornwall and South Wales, as well as the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development and the net cost drops to £120 million a week or £17 million a day. Per person, that’s 26p a day – or half the price of a Mars bar. So it was never possible to spend £350m on the NHS because it didn’t exist. Additionally Brexit means we now have to cover areas previously covered by EU funding. Our budgets will be spread more thinly than ever.
The second reason of immigration no matter how it was wrapped up in a cheeky chappy Farage shaped face, appealling to the short attention span reality TV loving population of today, just stank of Enoch Powel’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. Powel opposed the Race Relations Act which made it illegal to discriminate on skin colour or ethnic origin, and instead warned of swathes of immigrants invading Britain, except then it was black Caribbeans. Black Caribbeans who the British government begged to come to the UK via propaganda campaigns across the British Empire and Commonwealth to fill labour shortages after World War Two! They built the infrastructure of the UK just like today’s immigrants continue to. Farage constantly made reference to ‘taking our country back’ (whatever that means) and expressed his own ‘Rivers of Blood’ portrayal in a controversial ‘invasion’ poster with scary brown faces coming over ‘ere. A petition signed by 40,000 people has since been handed to the police reporting Farage and the Brexit campaign for inciting racial hatred.
With Brexit came a weekend of race hate crimes. True Vision, a police online hate crime reporting site, noted a 57% rise in reports between the Thursday and Sunday alone. Now, myself and my friends have already experienced disability hate crimes, particularly in Blue Badge Bays. Adding this new surge in racism to the mix, made me feel very scared and vulnerable.
Little kids at school were told to go back to where they came from, Spanish and Turkish restaurants were trashed and Polish families were getting abuse on buses and xenophobic notes through their front doors. British born Karissa Singh received some rather retro 80’s racism at a London student bar when a middle-aged white man said she ‘would never be true British’, and ‘I don’t care you’re here to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or whatever, just go back and do it in your own country’. Bizarrely, British-born white people were also getting abused. A white, blue eyed GP from Plymouth was abused by a elderly man who mistook him as Polish.
Dear racists what you can’t comprehend is that workers from the EU contribute to every sector of the UK economy. Screw with them and you screw the economy. The price of food will increase if there are no farm workers to pick the fruit and veg. It is well known in the farming industry that British born people do not want to get up at 3am to pick fruit in all weathers at minimum wage, therefore without workers from the EU, union workers will have to be brought in at a higher wage, making the produce in our shops more expensive. What will happen when you hare a heart attack and there is a shortage of paramedics and doctors to attend to you? Or when you need social care? Another low paid profession British born people are also reluctant to enter whereas 80,000 social care workers from the EU work in England alone. When our NHS, Social Care and finance industries crumble from these valuable members of society leaving the UK, will the you still be saying ‘at least we’ve got our country back’? It has already been reported that due to a shortage of civil servants the recruitment of overseas workers is needed to cope with the copious amount of new legislation that now needs to be written.
Of course not all leave voters are racist, many voted on what they heard about the economy as mentioned above. But the rise in race hate crimes highlight a worrying lack of education. They are occurring nationwide including metropolitan cites like London but also in areas disenfranchised from policies going back to Thatcher. Myself having studied the history of the Third Reich, feel I’m watching history repeating itself. Uneducated, angry or disillusioned, are attributes most susceptible to extremist views, which as a country we should be worried about and addressing with urgency. The health of the UK. Let’s not also forget that since the formation of the EU it is also the only period in history that countries within it have not been at war with each other.
Brexit has affected the health of our networks as families and friends are divided over this contentious issue. According to a Survation poll, an estimated 1.2million people regret their leave vote which is enough to swing the narrow majority if the referendum was rerun. To date 4million people have signed a petition calling for a second referendum.
Despite Article 50 not being activated yet, our new Prime Minister Theresa May has promised that ‘Brexit means Bexit’ and has started negotiations. However with Europe saying they are not going to make it easy I think we have a difficult and expensive time ahead as a country.
“Other EU governments will not want the exit process to appear too easy, simple or pain-free, lest other countries – whether currently inside or outside the EU – think the ‘British model’ attractive,” Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform in London.
Brexit affects my health, your health, the health of the UK, it has shown the world how the UK has regressed. We look inward thinking in a world driven increasingly by research and technology. We look silly. It has brought out the worst in our society, the racists and the naive who follow the Trump-esque Farage, based on his rhetoric rather than fact. There has also been talk of Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the UK as they voted to remain. So we will just become little England. Worryingly we now also have a new unelected Prime Minister who famously expressed disdain for The Human Rights Act and wants to leave the European Convention of Human Rights. All of this to save on the price of half a Mars bar.