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Law, Race and Brexit Britain - Launch Event for Birkbeck Centre for Researc...

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MAL 421

Birkbeck Main Building

Malet Street

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WC1E 7HX

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Law, Race and Brexit Britain - Launch Event for Birkbeck Centre for Research on Race and Law

In recent years, racist nationalism and fascism have increasingly found havens in countries across the world. The vote to leave the European Union in Britain, and the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States, each followed campaigns which propagated explicitly racist ideals. The EU referendum debate was eclipsed by the topic of migration. The Leave campaign argued that exiting the EU would allow Britain to ‘take back control of its borders’ and would ‘make Britain great again’. The epitome of the Leave campaign’s scaremongering about migration was perhaps the moment Nigel Farage unveiled a poster depicting non-white refugees crossing the Croatia-Slovenia border in 2015 along with the slogan “Breaking Point”. These victories have resulted in the legitimisation of racism and white supremacy. In Britain, a week prior to the referendum pro-immigration Labour MP, Jo Cox, was brutally murdered by a man who shouted Britain First as he killed her, and who gave his name in court on being charged with her murder as “Death to traitors. Freedom for Britain”. Since the referendum, racist hate crime has increased by 16% across Britain, and peaked at a 58% rise in the week following the vote. Weeks after the referendum, Arkadiusz Jóźwik was beaten to death in Essex, having reportedly been attacked for speaking Polish in the street. Legal scholars, activists and practitioners seeking to redress the climate of increasingly hostile and explicit racism, and counter the risk of its normalisation, face a number of challenges, including enhanced executive power, heightened government surveillance, the effects of cuts to legal aid, and widespread racial profiling and stigmatisation of Muslims under policies such as Prevent. This interdisciplinary roundtable addresses these urgent issues, raising the question of what strategies lawyers and activists can adopt in mobilising against recent dangerous trends.

Diamond Ashiagbor will speak on “Empire 2.0: Brexit, inequality, race and global trade”, exploring the ways in which, pre-Brexit, industrialised trading states such as the UK were able to alleviate the economic effects of open markets on their citizens through social transfers and welfare state regimes, made possible in large part because of transfers from ‘periphery’ to ‘core’, from the global South to the global North by means of uneven patterns of trade. Furthermore she will examine the unravelling of that social bargain, inequality and discrimination; and (post-Brexit) the possible turn to a low-tax, deregulated economy against a backdrop of a re-writing of histories of empire, migration and race.

Gurminder Bhambra will speak on the entangled nature of citizenship & migration in the post-war period and how this creates the basis for contemporary understandings of race and class in the UK. In particular, focusing on how a form of white identity politics (in terms of issues of 'legitimate' or 'genuine' grievances) is being mobilised on the Left (not just the Right) to dangerous effect and what we might be able to do to contest this.

Iyiola Solanke will discuss ‘What about the (‘Zambrano’) Children? Race and Citizenship in practice post-Brexit.’Brexit is the logical conclusion of the explicit policy of hostility to immigrants declared by the Conservative-Liberal Coalition Government. While Home Office campaigns such as the ‘Go Home or Face Arrest’ vans, made it clear that the targets were black and brown-skinned people, the general public applied it to all from elsewhere, including other parts of the Europe, and voted to leave the EU. However, the consequences of Brexit go beyond the EU migrants that are now the focus of attention in public debate. Brexit could also have dire consequences for a vulnerable group of British citizens - children whose parents are non-EU citizens but like EU migrants derive a right of residence from EU law (so called ‘Zambrano Carers’). These children – many of whom are the next generation of Black Britons – are currently deprived of access to basic benefits due to national law and may become parent-less when EU law no longer applies to the UK. To avoid creating ‘Brexit Orphans’ activists, politicians and negotiators must pay as much attention to the residency rights of these non-EU parents as to EU migrants. Furthermore, the UK Supreme Court must repeal the ‘Zambrano Amendments’ so that these Black British children do not grow up in destitution, excluded through no fault of their own from the basic social rights and privileges associated with citizenship.

For more information please contact s.keenan@bbk.ac.uk

Speakers: Diamond Ashiagbor (Institute of Advanced Legal Studies), Gurminder Bhambra (University of Warwick), Nadine El-Enany (Birkbeck), Gail Lewis (Birkbeck), Iyiola Solanke (University of Leeds)

Chair: Patricia Tuitt (Birkbeck)

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MAL 421

Birkbeck Main Building

Malet Street

London

WC1E 7HX

United Kingdom

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