Has Brexit Influenced An Increase In Racism?

“We go into schools and young people say to us “why can’t we be racist when the American president is a racist?” Has Brexit encouraged racist attitudes?

Police report figures have shown “a double of hate crime within the UK” in five years. With the ongoing issues of Brexit and islamophobia it seems “we’ve gone backwards in the last 10 years” says CEO of Show Racism the Red Card.

Whether coincidental or not, levels of racism have increased significantly in the last five years. It’s possible that Brexit has influenced these racist attitudes.

Anti-racist charity CEO, Ged Grebby, believes politics alongside islamophobia are key factors to blame for the increase in racist attitudes. “They’re the two reasons why racism is on the rise in the UK” he says.

Brexit had enabled politicians to embrace their true sides as May saw two Conservative election candidates suspended after racist social media posts. The likes of Labour also found themselves in a similar position, reported The Guardian – “Labour suspended several local election candidates over antisemitic comments.”

Still, whilst we may place blame on Brexit for increasing racist attitudes, it seems politicians aren’t as willing to condemn racism. Even when it means losing their own candidates.

Brexit’s ‘Vote Leave’ campaign stressed the importance of leaving due to the EU expanding and therefore costing the UK more money. Leaving would also mean freedom to “trade with the whole world”. But, due to their pledge to control immigration, it seems many people have used this as an excuse to be racist.


SRTRC have been challenging “racist attitudes through anti-racist education” for the last 23 years, with the help of thousands of football players. The charity was established in 1996 after Newcastle United goalkeeper, Shaka Hislop, was racially abused verbally before being recognised and asked for an autograph.

The charity continues to work within football and other grass-rooted sports, and schools. Providing educational sessions to “more than 50,000 individuals per year”, they’re tackling the ongoing issue of racism in society today. These help “challenge misconceptions, stereotypes and negative attitudes in society.”

They do this by using educational resources and videos that look at the key issues of racism. The charity encourages young people to be “critical thinkers” by going into schools, giving talks and spending time with pupils.

“We listen to them, we understand why young people pick up racist ideas, we accept that racism is something that is in our society. It’s something we need to challenge by education. You’ve got to listen to them, and you’ve got to change attitudes. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Racist Incidents

Hate crime reported in 2017/18 in England and Wales showed it had “increased by 17%” compared to the previous year. 76% of the hate crimes reported were race related. And 9% were religion related. A Home Office report revealed there was a spike in hate crimes after events including the EU referendum and terrorist attacks in 2017. It’s possible that we’d be right to partly place blame on Brexit.

April saw Milton Keynes Dons’ forward Chuks Aneke subject to a racist attack on social media. A meme on Instagram appeared to compare the footballer to a monkey. The post was said to have been made by a Rovers fan after a 2-1 defeat, according to the Independent.

Two days after that, Man United footballer Ashley Young was victim to a racist attack through Twitter. The tweets were said to have come from Young’s own fans, following a defeat to Barcelona football club. Fellow teammate Chris Smalling has also been subject to this abuse, claims The Times.

Football’s anti-discrimination organisation, Kick It Out reported “an 11% rise in reports of discriminatory abuse” in November. Although unable to comment, the organisation revealed to The Guardian that racism within football had risen by 22%. Sadly, these statistics aren’t representative of the many cases that go unreported.

The charity released a statement calling on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook “to take decisive action to combat the abuse faced by footballers on their platforms.” This was done shortly after the racist fuelled football attacks.

In May, ‘Brexit’ was used to justify a racist attack against a black woman at a London betting shop. A 74-year old pensioner told Anneka Davis “when Brexit comes you will be gone.” An article by the Independent claimed the man had called her a “f***ing n*****” at a bookmaker in southeast London.

It seems the issue remains to be present in education with an increase of more than 500 exclusions due to racist bullying. The Guardian reported there had been “4,590 cases of racial abuse among school students were deemed serious enough to warrant fixed or permanent exclusion, up from 4,085 in the previous year.”

Weeks after the Christ Church mosque attack, a Tyneside Islamic school was vandalised. The school was left in ruins with “windows broken, and flammable liquids poured on the floor”. This is the second time the beloved Bahr Academy had been broken into and vandalised in two months reported an article by Chronicle Live.

Research carried out by SRTRC of 6,000 young people showed that misconceptions had them believe immigration made up 48% of the population when it’s 12%. Grebby claims these were the two factors that stood out to them from the research “they think it’s 4x bigger than it actually is whereas if you looked at the Muslim population, they thought that was 32% and it’s actually only 5%.”

2018 data revealed that racism in universities had risen by a staggering 60% in two years. Racism is happening more than likely every day on “campuses across the UK” reported the Independent. But a sad truth is that students don’t feel comfortable reporting incidents for fear of not being taken seriously.


The Vote Leave campaign claimed that remaining in the EU would mean “immigration will continue to be out of control putting public services like the NHS under strain.” But immigration doesn’t have any current impact on the NHS.

Grebbs claims that “immigration helps run the NHS. They’re young and fit and don’t use it, it’s the older generation who voted for Brexit who use the NHS the most and don’t pay tax because they’re retired. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, that’s definitely a key factor for us.”

 A main cause for an increase in NHS costs is rising costs and wages, whilst immigration sits very low on the graph. This was discovered in a report by Nuffield Trust of 2014/15 to 2015/16.

Whilst immigrants may use the NHS, they also pay taxes which contribute towards the NHS funding. The graph clearly shows that immigration is not the main cause of why the NHS has become more expensive.

An estimation of 2014’s figures revealed that migration had added a cost of around £160 million for the NHS. Still, Nuffield Trust claim this figure is “small compared to the additional costs caused by other pressures on the health service.”

A United Nations official was branded ‘clueless’ as she claimed Brexit had increased levels of anti-Semitism in the UK. But, when asked for evidence providing a link, Tendayi Achiume was unable to comment. An ex-Conservative leader commented “It is complete rubbish. These reports are always rubbish”, claimed an article by The Sun.

Another Tory MP hit back, claiming “There is no basis for that – she is just plain wrong.” The article by the Daily Mail revealed the MP had said Brexit would mean “a fair immigration system will be developed.”

An audience member on The BBC’s ‘Question Time’ sparked outrage as he claimed that the UK was “one of the least racist societies across Europe.” A female audience member was quick to respond. She said “It’s funny that you’re a white man saying that… that there’s no racism in this country. How are you going to experience it?… You’re not the one walking down the street, being screamed at.”

Racism is clearly present in society and it’s important that we address it. Discrimination should never be justified and certainly not because of politics. Not being victim to the matter doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Survey Results

Whilst many racist incidents are highlighted in the news, too many go unnoticed due to the familiarity of them. As decent human beings, we must all question racist attitudes and be of support to victims.

A survey carried out by 19 Brits showed that seven participants had witnessed or experienced racist attitudes in public within the last five years in the United Kingdom. The survey meant that participants remained anonymous. One witnessed several incidents of a racist nature – “A young Muslim girl being called a ‘f*****g P**i’ in the town centre. She was told to ‘go home’. Other Asian colleagues have suffered verbal, racial abuse from customers.”

Another participant revealed – “Polish friend had letters through her letterbox saying, ‘Go home Polish scum’… people like Tommy Robinson and UKIP are using Brexit to further their far-right agenda.”

A Black British-Caribbean participant uncovered what has become their daily but appalling reality –

“[People] in a car shouted ni***r at me while I was coming back from college. My children and I have had racism almost every day while going out… I’m now on anti-depressants… I online shop as I am scared to go out… I’ve had racism all my life… I know it will never go away. I’m scared for my life.”

Whilst it’s impossible to directly tie the two, Brexit has had some influence on racism. It’s worrying to think that in a time when racism should be decreasing, it has in fact doubled. It’s time to take a stand against racism. Now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand.

Posted by

Wellbeing writer, host for The Inspired Narrative podcast and mental health support worker.

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