Many disability rights and protections we take for granted have come about as a consequence of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and EU law – for example:
- the EU Charter explicitly prohibits direct and indirect discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of disability (EU Charter, Article 21 & 26 & Equality Directive 2000/7/EC)
- disabled people living in other EU countries receive the same personal independence payments and other benefits as they would in the UK (Regulation on the Co-ordination of Social Security Systems 883/2004)
- the Blue Badge scheme – parking for those with reduced mobility (1998/376/EC on a parking card for people with disabilities)
- the European Health Insurance Card – provides most with free medical treatment during stays in EU countries, of particular use to many disabled people (The EHIC application)
- EU law prohibits discrimination by airlines against disabled passengers (EU Regulation on Reduced Mobility when travelling by air 1107/2006)
- regulations ensure public buses are easily accessible to disabled people (The European Accessibility Act 2015/0278)
- and that disabled people are entitled to assistance by trained staff when travelling by plane, train, bus or ship (EU Regulation on Reduced Mobility when travelling by air 1107/2006)
After Brexit, the Government says the body of existing EU law will be converted into UK law – and “wherever practical and appropriate”, the same rules and laws will apply on the day after we leave the EU as they did before.
BUT the Government proposes to take the UK out of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and remove the legal standing of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) – whose judgments have enhanced disability protections in the past.
For example, in 2008 the ECJ made discrimination against employees due to their carer status or relationship to a disabled person unlawful in England, Scotland and Wales (Coleman v Attridge Law).
After Brexit, the Government would be free to ignore future judgments like this if it wanted to.
And without the underpinning of EU law, there would be nothing to stop future Governments removing or diluting safeguards for disabled people, if they decide they are too costly or otherwise undesirable.
- the UK will no longer automatically benefit from future disability protections in the EU – including rules coming in in 2019 to make websites and mobile apps more accessible to users (Directive 2016/2102 on the Accessibility of Websites and Mobile apps of public sector bodies)
- if there is a hard border in Ireland, disabled people in Northern Ireland may find it difficult to access specialist healthcare
- No assessment has yet been made about the impact of Brexit on funding
- whether EU grant funding may still be available
- what will happen to disabled people if funding is withdrawn
- where funding will come from in the future
- The National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) estimates that UK charities receive over £300 million in EU funding every year
- EU funding provides pre-employment and skills training to disadvantaged groups – including disabled people