Equal rights and Brexit

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A video clip has been circulated recently, of a Member of Parliament of putting forward an eloquent case in the House of Commons for the generations of UK citizens who migrated to Britain from Caribbean islands in the late 1940s and 1950s – usually referred to as The Windrush era. The MP asked some incisive questions about recent moves made by the British Home Office to deny many of those people their rights of abode in the UK and even access to health care, when they had probably paid taxes in the country for at least half a century.

Caught in an awkward moment, when the UK is negotiating its way out of the EU and also participating in several Commonwealth related events, the Prime Minister has apologised for Home Office’s actions, to a group of Caribbean diplomats and community leaders. The sequence of events gives one a queasy feeling. What would have happened if a gung ho Brexiteer was the leader of the Conservative Party? The mind boggles.

The MP who raised the case in the House of Commons has chosen an appropriate moment to raise public awareness about the rights of a section of Britain’s population that has coped with uncomfortable issues regarding citizenship of the nation for a very long time. Brexit has stirred up a hornet’s nest about these matters. Perhaps it is useful that the matters raised are of particular significance to senior citizens, even though it is truly unfortunate that some of those people have gone through nasty experiences.

Is it possible that a new and more constructive way of thinking about multiculturalism in Britain might emerge out of the turmoil? Interestingly, it is happening at a time when the Labour Party is also under pressure to exorcise demons within its ranks that are being attributed to Anti Semitism.

Debates about diversity and equal opportunities have bubbled under the surface for ages, but haven’t always been acknowledged as relevant by large sections of the UK’s population. If the Brexit fever is forcing everyone to consider these issues in more detail, then it will have done something healthy for the nation.