Under the microscope: Brexit and the disabled community

We can’t escape it: Brexit. Everywhere you look there is breaking news, analysis, theories and more on what is happening. The most important question is: how will Brexit affect the disabled community?


Firstly, what is Brexit? Britain’s exit – or Brexit – is the process of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (EU). On Tuesday 23 June 2016 a referendum took place to decide if the UK should leave or remain in the EU; leave won by 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent.

With over 30 million people turning out to vote, the seriousness of Brexit is tangible. Brexit will literally impact on everyone’s daily life.

As news broke on Tuesday (15 January) that Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected by 230 votes – the largest Government defeat in a century – the future looks no clearer.

With disability rights currently safeguarded by EU legislation, the decision to leave the EU might have a drastic impact on disability funding, support, and care.


Upon leaving the EU, all EU laws will be converted into UK domestic laws – which is estimated to account for 13.2 per cent of EU laws enacted between 1993 and 2004.

One of the most important laws people have concerns about is the European Convention of Human Rights. Although the UK is potentially leaving Europe, the government has stated that it: “is committed to membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

In legal terms, any disputes to a law or legal standing can be taken to a European Court of Justice, as it outweighs a UK Supreme Court decision. However, again, this will not be the case after Brexit meaning the UK Supreme Court is the highest court in Britain.

Similarly, funding could be impacted with Brexit. Employment services could face cuts as between 2014 – 2020, the European social fund (ESF) and European regional development fund invested around €11.8 billion across the UK. €4.9 billion of this fund is dedicated to getting disabled people back or into work. We could lose this funding when Britain leaves.

Also, December 2015 saw the EU propose the European Accessibility Act. This Act is in place to improve functions in the internal market for accessible products and services. If we were to leave, the EU is not bound to continue supporting the Act.


Disability charities are working to ensure the disabled community are not significantly impacted due to the Brexit. In fact, Disability Rights UK has released their own manifesto detailing their proposals for supporting the disabled community post-Brexit. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Maintaining all EU-based disability rights existing at the time the UK leaves.
  • Continuing to upstand existing disability rights which are incorporated in domestic law.
  • Matching disability funding currently being provided by the EU.
  • Recognising initiatives useful to disabled people.
  • Continued commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights

There is still a lot of uncertainty ahead, but there is a stronghold of people working to ensure disability rights are not greatly impacted to ensure everyone is supported. 

We will be continuing this research and you can read more in the upcoming March/April issue of the magazine.

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