After the EU referendum - SACC Policy Statement

SACC Policy statement, 29 June 1016

SACC stands against repressive legislation and policies that criminalise the daily lives of minority communities; criminalise dissent; and institutionalise, legitimise and promote racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia. Resistance to these policies is more important than ever in the aftermath of the EU referendum. It must become a priority for all progressive political movements and parties.

We have no collective position on either EU membership or on Scottish independence. We will continue to campaign in Scotland for the rolling back of repressive laws and institutional racism whether in or out of the UK, and whether Scotland is or is not an independent nation.

A decision to leave the EU was taken by a majority of voters across the UK. It remains to be seen whether the UK Parliament will act upon the voters' decision. In Scotland a majority of voters decided to remain in the EU.

SACC welcomes Nicola Sturgeon's promise to EU citizens living in Scotland, in her statement on 24 June, that: "you remain welcome here, Scotland is your home and your contribution is valued."

It's clear that the Scottish Government intends to maintain Scotland's relationship with the EU. The Scottish Government may move towards a second independence referendum in order to achieve this, but it's clear from Nicola Sturgeon's speech in the Scottish Parliament on 28 June that the Scottish Government is energetically looking into measures that could maintain a relationship to the EU without a requirement for independence.

Presumably these would include arrangements to make good Nicola Sturgeon's commitment to safeguard the position of EU citizens living in Scotland. Besides that, Nicola Sturgeon says that her aim is to "secure continued access to the single market for Scotland". It isn't yet clear what the consequences might be, if the UK leaves the EU, of Scotland continuing its relationship with the EU while remaining part of the UK . Nor is it clear whether the Scottish Government strategy differs from suggestions that the UK could remain in the European Economic Area (EEA) after leaving the EU.

As a result of the possible divergence of policies between Scotland and the rest of the UK, struggles against repression and racism may develop along different but overlapping lines. The mechanisms of state repression and institutional racism that we will need to confront will depend on whether Scotland is in or out of the EU and the UK. But the urgent need to confront them will not change.

In pursuing our aims, SACC will support international arrangements that tend to promote peace, justice and the effective exercise of human rights, and oppose international arrangements that tend to promote and institutionalise imperialism, racism and oppression. We support reform of the EU from the left, and oppose reform from the right. We support the UK and Scotland's continuing membership of the Council of Europe, and the continuation of the legal status that the European Court of Human Rights currently has in the UK and Scotland. The UK's relationship to the ECHR will not be affected by any move to leave the EU, but is threatened by the British Bill of Rights proposed in the Queen's Speech.

SACC deplores the denial to EU citizens living in the UK of the right to vote in the EU referendum.

There has been a disturbing number of reports of racist, Islamophobic and anti-immigrant incidents following the referendum. So far, these have mostly occurred south of the border. Sadly, such incidents are nothing new, anywhere in the UK. We are very concerned over the mounting evidence that these incidents are increasing as a result of the referendum and we urge maximum unity against them.

The Leave vote was above all a rebellion against elitist politics, neo-liberal economic policies and the austerity and hardship visited on ordinary people across Britain. Opposition to the EU has become associated with xeno-racist and anti-immigration views because of the sustained promotion and legitimisation of such views over many years by the media and political figures, because of the reactionary outlook propagated throughout public life by the Prevent strategy (especially in England and Wales) and finally because these views were fuelled and exploited by the dominant campaigns on both sides of the EU debate, especially the Leave campaign.

Uncompromising anti-racism is the only way to build unity against austerity, discrimination and imperialism. It must not be undermined and diluted out of deference to supposedly popular reactionary views. Nor must it be exploited and deflected in order to de-legitimise opposition to the EU.

We call for the following steps to taken in response to the EU referendum result:

  • The UK Government must urgently bring forward legislation to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, irrespective of any further steps that may be taken as a result of the referendum, and independently of any steps by other EU countries to protect the rights of UK citizens in those countries. Doing so will restore the confidence of EU migrants living here and will give a clear signal that xenophobia directed against them is unacceptable. We support the letter to David Cameron by Roger Casale of New Europeans urging action to protect the rights of EU migrants in EU countries.
  • The UK Government and the Scottish Government, if it gains the necessary powers, must give overseas citizens living in the UK (EU citizens, asylum-seekers and others) the same access to welfare and benefits as UK citizens. This would give substance to the rights supposedly enjoyed by EU citizens, would protect the pay and conditions of all working people and would alleviate the continuing crisis facing asylum-seekers and the charities, friends and families that support them.
  • Progressive supporters of the Leave position must act urgently and vigorously to promote an inclusive, anti-racist, pro-immigrant outlook amongst Leave voters and promote an EU exit strategy that embodies and prioritises these values and discards the legacy of the EU's anti-refugee policies.
  • Progressive supporters of the Remain position must act urgently and vigorously to promote an inclusive, anti-racist, pro-immigrant outlook amongst Remain voters and must stand firmly against suggestions that the EU should be reformed to make immigration harder.
  • The Scottish Government must roll back its support for the Prevent strategy and civil society must step up its resistance to the strategy. The divergence of Scottish politics from politics in England and Wales, and the urgent need to counter the spread of racist attitudes, make this the right time for the Scottish Government to re-consider its support for the strategy.
  • The EU must stop blocking the passage of refugees to Europe. EU policies are resulting in the death of thousands of refugees each year, drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean. This is a crime against humanity and it must stop.
  • The EU must reject the proposals announced by the Commission in April for reform to the Common European Asylum System. The proposals will result in summary deportations, will reduce the security of people granted asylum and are arguably in breach of the obligations of EU states under international law. Europe's policies towards refugees need to be levelled upwards, not downwards. SACC shares the concerns over asylum reform set out by the Meijers Committee (pdf document) of experts on international immigration, refugee and criminal law.
  • The Scottish Government must seek ways to protect people in Scotland from the effects of the UK's Immigration Act 2016. Immigration is a reserved matter, but implementation of the Act involves devolved functions. SACC supports the call by the Migrant Solidarity Network for action by the Scottish Government to protect migrants' rights.