The positives of being an EU member often go unsung. These include collaboration in many medical research programmes; free health cover abroad through the European Health Insurance Card; and EU workers filling staffing gaps in the overstretched NHS (made worse by the ending of training bursaries for UK health workers and ongoing cuts within the service).
As disabled academics have recently pointed out, the sharing of initiatives around independent living is supported in back rooms at the EU, including the European Network on Independent Living. From the 90s onwards, Britain has developed a leading role in developing EU disability policy away from charity and welfare and towards equality and human rights. Moreover, the Disability Discrimination Act and EU employment directives have made it harder for employers to discriminate against disabled people, and care workers.
There’s much debate over freedom of movement within the EU. But this is something disabled people have only just been able to experience, and it’s the EU that has ensured disabled passengers will get the assistance they need from transport operators. Remaining an EU member will help to counter calls to leave the European convention on human rights – and mean we still have the EU’s ratification of the UN disability convention, which directs the EU to “harness all its financial, legislative and other tools to benefit disabled people”.
There’s a glaring lack of any considered comments within the mainstream leave campaign on how it will ensure that the rights and services of disabled people continue – other than generalised pronouncements that less EU immigration is a panacea for all our ills.
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