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Warning Brexit will impact on the most vulnerable

Independent report finds 137 separate impacts

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 27 January 2020

The UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) is likely to negatively impact the most vulnerable people in Scotland in many ways including their health and social care, legal rights and access to medicines, suggests a new report published at the weekend.

The Social and Equality Impacts of Brexit – an independent report commissioned by the Scottish government – identified 137 potential impacts on those already facing inequality, discrimination, or social exclusion.

The government said the report highlighted impacts including the loss of legal rights, employment protections, funding opportunities, healthcare rights, and supply and access to food, fuel and medicines.

The report refers to the previously published Operation Yellowhammer document, the UK government’s planning for a reasonable worst case scenario in the event of a no deal Brexit that was published in September of last year.

The latter document had warned of potentially significant haulage and transport disruptions across the Channel Straits – which is possible under a no-trade deal Brexit and the sudden imposition of WTO rules and customs checks – that could “have an impact on the supply of medicines and medical supplies… making them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays”.

The new report’s authors said that people most affected by delays or shortages in medicine covered several equalities groups, including people with long-term illnesses, disabled people, older people, children and young people, pregnant women and mothers.

Another area of concern was over disabled people who had a higher-than-average need to access public services, in particular, health and social care services.

“If there are any reductions in public services after Brexit, then disabled people will be disproportionately affected by such cuts,” said the authors.

“One of the greatest concerns of disabled people’s organisations is the impact of Brexit on health and social care services, upon which disabled people and long-term illnesses rely.

“There are also significant recruitment problems in both these sectors, partly caused by a decline in the number of EU nationals remaining in, or coming to, the UK, and there are fears that these recruitment shortages will get worse post-Brexit when EU free movement ends.”

Scotland’s communities secretary Aileen Campbell said: “The Scottish government has repeatedly warned that any kind of Brexit will be disastrous for our most vulnerable citizens.

“The UK government failed to carry out any meaningful assessment on the impact of Brexit, including an Equality Impact Assessment. The Scottish government asked an independent expert Dr Eve Hepburn to review the social and equality impacts of leaving the EU on people in Scotland and across the UK.

“The Scottish Parliament, like the other devolved nations, has explicitly – and comprehensively – refused to give its consent to the UK government’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

“Although Scotland is being pulled out of the EU against its will, the Scottish government will not ignore the negative impact Brexit will have on people, including the most vulnerable in our society.”

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