Brexit talks must not be marred by discrimination

Written by Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso on 21 October 2016 in Opinion
Opinion

As long as the UK is an EU member, it must respect the bloc's founding values of non-discrimination, tolerance and solidarity, writes Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso.

Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual


Europe's citizens should not see their honour stained in any other country, and certainly not in a country that is a member of the Union to which all of them belong. The EU is founded on the values of non-discrimination, tolerance and solidarity; values that are common to all its member states.

Article two of the treaty of the European Union refers explicitly to these values. This treaty, like all the others that form the acquis communautaire, is binding for the member states. 

The fact is that the number of member states will remain 28 until the UK formalises - in accordance with article 50 - its intention to leave the bloc. As long as it is still a member of the EU, the UK must respect the values set out in its treaties.


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However, it seems this is not always the case. Recently, home secretary Amber Rudd worryingly affirmed that her government was not willing to wait until Brexit was completed to toughen the conditions under which foreign workers can be hired and admitted into British universities.

The measures she announced may or may not succeed. But her words are already an invitation to discriminate those workers and students who, despite not being British, live in the UK. Many of them are European citizens who have suffered due to these kinds of announcements.

The goal of the European project is for every single EU citizen to feel at home in all of the member states. Therefore, I have asked the European Commission to ensure that the rights of all European students and workers living in the UK are respected. 

I have urged the executive to assess whether the rhetoric in migration control used by UK Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet members violates the principle discrimination, as well as whether it directly incites discrimination of those who are not British.

Brexit is not just a disruptor of trade relations that are worth preserving in the best conditions. It is also a threat to our social cohesion. Anti-Europe discourse in Britain has toughened since the 23 June EU referendum. 

As such, we should pay special attention to the rise in hate crimes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. During the weekend following the vote, the number of complaints issued in relation to this type of crime increased by 57 per cent.

Amid a fragile scenario, it would be particularly worrying to see the UK government being dragged into the rhetoric of anti-European populists.

In order to prevent this, it is essential to resist temptation to elaborate a discourse that announced worse conditions for non-British students and workers, or even the possibility of forcing companies to list their foreign employees. 

We must not forget that this would affect tens of thousands of European citizens who deserve to feel at home in every member state. Embracing this rhetoric would be a big mistake.

 

About the author

Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso (EPP, ES) is a European Parliament Vice-President and member of the regional development committee

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