ENIL Press Release, 24 June 2016
“Today, we come to the sobering realisation that our connection with European supporters, policies that reflect the aspirations of the Independent Living Movement and decision makers that would collaborate with us is severely damaged – possibly beyond repair. Disabled people, in the UK, will become further marginalised as the State begins to dismantle social justice frameworks and destroy the support systems that – currently – do not meet the needs of those who require them. The most startling factor to consider is that the majority of those who voted unwittingly accepted this.” Miro Griffiths, UK, Independent Living activist and researcher
The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) has woken up to today’s news of UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) with emotions of sadness, disbelief and dejection. We share these emotions with almost half of the UK population, the majority of whom are from the younger generations and larger cities, from Scotland and Northern Ireland, and most certainly from the UK Independent Living and disability rights movement.
It is clear that the distance between the Brussels policy making and everyday concerns of EU citizens in the Member States is far too great, or at the minimum is perceived that way. We hope that the Brexit setback will initiate a constructive debate that leads us to a more social Europe, with a stronger, more positive impact on our human rights and living conditions. The European core values of non-discrimination, human rights and freedom of movement should benefit us all, including the British disabled people and their families.
We are deeply concerned about the prospect of disabled people in Britain being worse off and hit by further cuts. Although discrimination and inequality affect many disabled people throughout Europe, there are numerous EU initiatives that have had a positive impact on our lives and have created a stronger legal basis to protect our rights. Among those positive measures are the EU Employment Directive, the EU Bus Directive and Air Passengers Regulation, the Web Accessibility Directive and the European Accessibility Act, which is currently being negotiated. The benefit of EU’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for Britain’s disabled people also cannot be underestimated, nor can access to the European Structural and Investment Funds, which can be used to advance deinstitutionalization, employment, accessibility and inclusion.
“I have been employing my own personal assistants for 33 years and during this time I have employed PAs from 12 different EU countries. I would not have been able to have managed this if we were not part of the EU. If we leave, this opportunity will no longer be available to us and will restrict thousands of disabled people finding new PAs. Recruitment of PAs is already a big problem in this country, particularly in many rural areas.” John Evans, ENIL UK & advisory board
ENIL respects the democratic right of the British people to decide on their EU membership. However, we are adamant that a strong human rights agenda throughout Europe is better achieved together. ENIL will continue and intensify its collaboration with disabled people in the UK. We will not leave our British disabled brothers and sisters behind and will do everything in our power to support them in their fight for Independent Living.
European Network on Independent Living – ENIL