The future of Britain and its relationship with the rest of Europe is mired in apprehension as Brexit continues to wreak havoc on the political culture and climate. Although the government has negotiated an extension with the EU, it still does not rule out a no-deal outcome down the line. The uncertainty is causing anxiety amongst the British public, especially when representatives in parliament are silent.
As a gay man and staunch advocate for LGBT rights, I am deeply concerned that Britain’s legally binding LGBT laws are under threat from a Conservative-led Brexit. The European Union has instilled ground-breaking laws that now prohibit once pervasive discrimination against LGBT individuals. For example, in 1996, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled a trans woman’s dismissal from her job due to her gender reassignment surgery, an act of unlawful sex discrimination. Furthermore, the ECJ has defied British government traditions by implementing equal anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation and ending a ban on gays serving in the military. Although the British justice system introduced civil partnerships and same-sex marriage on its own, they were a protégé to a pioneering EU where many member states had done so years prior.
Britain’s government has vowed to protect the laws already in place regarding the protection of the LGBT community. However, it is difficult to stand by a Conservative party whose stance on gay rights hasn’t been consistent.
The notorious section 28 law, heralded by the late Tory PM Margaret Thatcher, allowed an intolerant and prolific homophobic dialogue to prevail in Britain. Moreover, Britain’s current chancellor, Philip Hammond, has espoused anti-gay rhetoric as recently as 2014, when he compared same-sex relationships with incest. These examples are justifiable as to why proponents of LGBT rights remain skeptical as to how a Conservative Brexit will ensure lawful protections for the LGBT community.
The prime minister’s Brexit deal dismantles Britain’s ties with the ECJ but still uses the EU Charter, which has introduced pro-LGBT laws as the bedrock of Britain’s legal framework. The only difference, according to Theresa May’s pledge, is there will no longer be an appointment of a British Advocate-General to the ECJ. Whether May abides by her proposal remains to be seen, but the idea of a no-deal crash out of the EU brings out the angst in the public.
This week marks the European elections, with Nigel Farage’s newly-formed Brexit party topping the polls amongst the British electorate. Farage has urged for a no-deal Brexit and poured scorn on the establishment for not ending the Brexit impasse.
The U.K would be left to produce their own laws for society and the workplace if a no-deal was implemented. Trade unions have always been significant mobilizers in gaining workplace equality protection from the EU. However, with the increasing powerlessness of unions under a Tory premiership, their influence in new proposals wouldn’t be as commanding.
Other than a People’s Vote, the only other option is to negotiate a softer Brexit under a Labour government. The Labour opposition, with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm, promised a close relationship with the EU by remaining in the customs union. In fear of ignoring the 48% of people who voted to remain, it is crucial a soft Brexit deal takes place to avoid anger across the nation. Labour has been ridiculed for failing to adopt a Brexit solution, with many grassroots members ardently backing a second vote whilst the shadow cabinet put pressure on delivering an EU exit for the British people. Labour is currently second in the polls in the European elections.
The majority of LGBT voters opted for the Labour party in the 2017 snap election, it is only obvious that a soft Brexit if a confirmatory vote doesn’t take place, is the primary solution for a diversifying electorate.