Some of the country’s leading disability activists, including Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson, have published an open letter calling for the public to have the final say on Brexit.
The campaigners say they are convinced that the ‘chaotic, uncertain, and discordant’ Brexit process is going to lead to a ‘reduced quality of life’ for disabled people in the UK. They cite the 96% drop in nursing applications from the EU and what they see as the undermining of essential human rights laws via the Withdrawal Agreement as two reasons for their bleak outlook. James Partridge, founder and former chief executive of charity Changing Faces and a signatory to the letter, said: ‘To call for a second referendum is something you need to be sure about it. It’s not a view that you can take lightly. ‘But we feel that the assurances we were given during the campaign, and particularly about the NHS and our rights, are looking pretty difficult to support now. We need to be assured that leaving is not going to be damaging to disabled people’s prospects and health. ‘The notion of a second vote is one we all agree with because we think that as the terms become clearer for disabled people, we should have the chance to decide if they are good enough or not.’
The letter says: “Disabled people have gained considerably from Britain’s 46 years of EU membership, especially in legal recognition and protection. In advance of the referendum, we were given a range of assurances that our rights, independence, health and social care and lifetime opportunities would not be put at risk if there were a Leave vote. “But over two years later, those assurances look increasingly tenuous. The chaotic, uncertain and discordant atmosphere surrounding the Brexit negotiations is profoundly unsettling and psychologically damaging to disabled people and those with long-term health conditions in the UK.
“The time has come to demand much more detail – and, as it now seems likely that Brexit will lead to reduced quality of life, we should join the rising clamour for a people’s vote on the terms of any ‘Brexit deal’.”
It goes on to say that the signatories are particularly concerned about the quality and quantity of public services, public health, rights to fair treatment and anti-discriminatory protection, economic opportunities and the provision of benefits.
It says: “We believe that these depressing prospects are causing alarm to disabled people, their families and allies across the UK. With so much at stake, we call for a people’s vote on the terms of Brexit, giving people the option to stay in the current deal we have with the EU.”
The publication of the letter comes a day after a large new poll from the campaigns Best for Britain and Hope Not Hate showed that more than 100 seats which voted Leave in the 2016 referendum have now switched to Remain.
Conservative MP Philip Lee, the former justice minister who resigned from the front bench over the government’s Brexit stance, said that people were increasingly coming to realise that Brexit Britain “will not be the land of milk and honey that voters were promised”. He said: It’s not too late. The British people should have the final say.
“Brexit must be put back to the electorate in the form of a people’s vote.”