By Richard Harris
Few years will be as memorable as 2016; it was a truly momentous year in world politics. Britain made the decision to leave the European Union; David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister; Theresa May became the second female Prime Minister in British history; Nigel Farage resigned as UKIP leader…twice, and Donald Trump defied the odds and defeated Hillary Clinton in the American presidential election.
In the run up to June 23rd 2016 a lot was made of how different demographics would be affected post-Brexit. As a committed and passionate leave campaigner, I always maintained that we would all benefit from independence and from leaving the EU. Whilst I am a passionate Brexiteer and a passionate Tory, I am also a very proud and passionate disability rights activist.
I must add a pretext here and say that I am not and never have been anti-Europe, far from it; I join Boris Johnson and Dan Hannan and even Nigel Farage in saying that I love Europe and spend a lot of great time in France and mainland Europe on holiday. My objection to The EU was the state interference from Brussels.
Benefits and welfare are controlled by the centre at the DWP and are an all British affair so from the outset it would appear that there is not much impact at all. There are, however, several pieces of equality legislation that each supersede the one before – these govern disability rights. For example, the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act 1995) and the Equalities Act 2010 – both of which, I hasten to add, were introduced by Conservative-led governments. Both of these Acts supersede the Chronically Ill and Disabled Persons Act 1970.
In December 2015 the European Union proposed the European Accessibility Act which sets out to install requirements for certain key products and services including: cash machines, other banking services and TV Equipment.
The DDA covered things like education; transport and the provision of goods; services; premises; employment and occupation. However, where the business had less than 20 employees, the DDA did not apply.
The Equalities Act legislated further by stating that reasonable adjustments had to be made. The loophole involving less than 20 staff was removed. There have been several EU directives covering specific areas, for example, in 2000 there was the EU Directive for Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation. There were also several directives introduced with regards to transport between 2006 and 2011.
Whilst I can see that there is mileage in the 2015 Accessibility Act, the EQA 2010 covers the majority of the legislation that the EU are proposing. When the “Great Repeal Bill” is produced in due course, as the Prime Minister promised at the Conservative party conference in 2016, surely any relevant EU Legislation will be written into UK Law?
I would call on Penny Mordaunt MP and the Department of Work and Pensions to write the extras from the EU Act into a British Access Act in 2017 and let the repeal bill do the rest.
Richard Harris is Parliament Street’s Disabilities Spokesman