Boris Johnson's Brexit Deal harms ethnic minorities

Written by:
Zubaida Haque
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Runnymede Deputy Director Zubaida Haque outlines the impact of Boris Johnson's Brexit deal on ethnic minorities and vulnerable groups, highlighting incomes and jobs will suffer, and hard fought equality protections will be undermined.

Last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, rejected MPs’ calls for an economic assessment of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal before they vote on it. This is alarming given that while Boris Johnson’s proposal is no longer a No Deal Brexit, it represents a hard Brexit. 

The difference between Boris Johnson’s deal and former Prime Minister, Theresa May’s is that Johnson’s deal abandons a close relationship with a single market, rules out any customs union, and supports a Free Trade Agreement with the EU. The consequences are predicted to be, less protection and enforcement of workers’ rights, more customs checks on British goods, and greater tariffs imposed on British goods.  

Since 2016, the Runnymede Trust has published several articles highlighting the impact of Brexit on Britain’s 8million ethnic minorities, including the extremely damaging impact of no deal Brexit on black and ethnic minority communities, women and those ‘just about managing groups’.  

Our analysis shows that ethnic minorities, as well as other disadvantaged groups in low paid and insecure work, are likely to be severely impacted by a no deal Brexit because lower socio-economic groups are more vulnerable to small increases in food prices (Michael Gove has admitted this is a real prospect), as well as job losses due to increased tariffs on British exports to the EU. 

Working people will be made poorer 

Analysis by think-tank UK in a Changing Europe has shown that Boris Johnson’s withdrawal agreement bill could reduce income per capita by 2.5% (compared to staying in the EU), and the government’s analysis of a limited free trade deal with the EU suggests that the average person will be £2,250 poorer by 2034.  

Ethnic minority groups, women as well as those on lower and insecure incomes will struggle more with this reduction in GDP because they are less able to buffer reductions in income. Research by the Runnymede Trust with Women’s Budget Group has already shown that women, ethnic minority groups and single parent families have already been hit hardest by austerity cuts, which means that any further cuts to their income, will push working families to the breadline. In addition, not only has child poverty increased to 4.1million children living in poverty, but 70% of these children are in working families

Equal pay and maternity rights could be scrapped 

While everyone is (rightly) focusing on what it means for UK/Irish trading when you have a border in the Irish Sea, Johnson’s deal will have much wider ramifications for trade regulations and legal protections for working people.  

Theresa May’s final Brexit deal included a commitment to a ‘level playing field’ in order to ensure fair competition between the EU and the UK (without compromising on equality or environmental protections) but Johnson’s deal has subtly removed this clause from a legally binding Withdrawal Agreement. This means that any equality laws such as those on equal pay, maternity discrimination, paternity rights or fairer treatment for those in part-time jobs can all be compromised or scrapped once the UK leaves the EU.  

And while the UK Equality Act 2010 legally protects people with protected characteristics (e.g. gender, ethnicity, disability) from discrimination within the workplace, it is important to recognise that the Equality Act is not protected by a constitutional bill of rights, meaning that this Johnson government or a new one could easily repeal or undermine the fundamental right to equality once Britain has left the EU. 

The deal ignores equality laws 

Amidst the furious parliamentary exchanges, we have lost sight of what Brexit will mean for ordinary working people, let alone those from disadvantaged and lower income backgrounds. Despite the government’s legal obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty, contained within the Equality Act 2010, the Conservative government (under May and Johnson) have repeatedly failed to publish equality impact assessments of any Brexit options.  

An equality impact assessment of Johnson’s deal would highlight which demographic groups would be most vulnerable to the impact of the PM’s deal - which is crucial to protecting and safeguarding those on lower incomes.  

But the Chancellor of the Exchequer has reiterated that he will not be undertaking any robust economic impact assessment of this deal before a meaningful vote this week. Given the overwhelming evidence from academics, think tanks and third sector organisations that Johnson’s deal will make lower income working families poorer, you have to seriously question whose interests this government are really looking after?

Pic credit: Donkey Hotey/Flickr


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