Time for a Sharp Brexit?
What will voting to leave the EU mean for UK bis?
On June 23rd the UK voted to leave the European Union – by a slender 4% margin, which the ‘leave’ campaign had argued would not be a large enough margin of victory to be respected had it gone the other way.
However as we go to press that looks like enough of a margin that ‘Brexit’ will go ahead. What might it mean for bi and wider LGBT+ rights in the UK?
Over the past twenty years the UK’s position in the EU and as part of other European institutions has been a key driver of LGBT equalities. Europe, rather than Westminster, enabled us to equalise the age of consent back in the 1990s and to end the ban on bi and gay people serving in the armed forces. It gave us legal equality in the workplace, even if the legislative change is only part of that battle.
Civil partnerships and same-sex marriage may have started here, but other rights were achieved through a combination of UK and European work.
In recent times the EU has been the focus of getting mutual recognition of same-sex partnerships between nations, and enabling families who move from one member state to another to have things like parenting rights respected. While progress with some member states is frustratingly slow, achieving such mutual recognition outside the union will most likely be even slower.
Just two years ago it was the European Court of Justice that ruled bi and gay asylum seekers should not be expected to produce photo or video evidence of same-sex sexual activity to prove their claims.
It’s unlikely we will see a roll-back of the legal equalities we have achieved so far. The cross-party consensus on things like same-sex marriage is made even stronger through the growing number of openly bi and gay people in political life – as a proportion we have more out MPs than any other country, and the Scottish Parliament elections in May were notable for the Labour and Tory leaders both posing for the press with their same-sex partners on polling day.
More likely in the short term are cuts to services or the erosion of general workers rights that we now have regardless of sexuality in the face of a likely new recession, when we were scarcely over the last one. As more government spending will have to go to servicing the national debt, expect less for everything else.
Given how bi people are more likely to be on low incomes or suffer health problems, changes like those would not be anti-LGBT in intent or framing but would disproportionately affect us.
But for the longer term, losing the European dimension is likely to slow the pace of equalities.
And a potential loss of freedom of movement within the EU could mean that if you meet the love of your life at EuroBiCon it becomes that much more difficult to stay with them.
For now, we mostly just can’t tell. It’s all too soon. But it’s more likely to make things worse than better.