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Tower Hamlets ‘has suffered an increase in hate crime since Brexit vote’

PUBLISHED: 17:20 14 February 2019

Cllr Amina Ali is the chair of theTower Hamlets Brexit Commission. Pic: Kois Miah

Cllr Amina Ali is the chair of theTower Hamlets Brexit Commission. Pic: Kois Miah

KOIS MIAH

Tower Hamlets has seen skills shortages and a spike in hate crime since the UK voted to leave the EU, according to a report released today.

Jim Minton is the chief executive of Toynbee Hall. Pic: Kois MiahJim Minton is the chief executive of Toynbee Hall. Pic: Kois Miah

The council’s Brexit Commission gathered at City Hall this morning to discuss the findings of months of research into how Brexit will impact the borough.

The panel, which is made up of economists, experts and councillors, was set up in September 2018 and has been gathering evidence in three specific areas – the local economy, the delivery of public services and civil society.

John Biggs, mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “The East End has a proud history of adapting to change and demonstrating its resilience in the face of great upheaval. I’m confident that by working together we can navigate the challenges of Brexit with that same determination to succeed.”

The borough is home to more than 41,000 non-UK EU citizens. Hate crimes spiked around the time of the EU referendum, with 608 reported compared to 431 the previous year, according to the report.

John Biggs at the Tower Hamlets Brexit Commission Report Launch. Pic: Kois MiahJohn Biggs at the Tower Hamlets Brexit Commission Report Launch. Pic: Kois Miah

“Some witnesses expressed concern that a further spike may occur around the time of Brexit.

“The witnesses noted that the borough can work together through its partnerships to continue to ensure there is a positive and welcoming environment for non UK EU citizens.”

It adds: “There is a concern that changes to immigration, employment and settlement rights could lead to greater discrimination against EU residents. The ‘leave’ vote created the perception of a permissive space where hate crime, not only targeted at non-UK EU citizens, increased.”

Many Tower Hamlets businesses are also “totally unprepared” for a no deal Brexit, the research found.

Professor Tony Travers at the launch. Pic: Kois MiahProfessor Tony Travers at the launch. Pic: Kois Miah

“The risk of skills shortages is a major concern for many businesses in Tower Hamlets,” it states. “The ability to recruit workers with appropriate skills is already a challenge for many businesses in the borough. Some sectors, such as hospitality, are particularly reliant on EU workers for lower skilled roles, which are most likely those that will face significant restrictions if freedom of movement is ended.”

It adds: “Witnesses told the commission that the government was not doing enough to plan for a ‘no deal’. There is also a lack of

information to guide businesses in their contingency planning.”

The report makes 24 recommendations that will help alleviate problems leaving the EU could potentially cause.

Professor Tony Travers, who sat on the commission panel, said the report was “an incentive for other London boroughs and UK cities to prepare more thoroughly for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

“It seems that what is going on in Westminster is not as thought out as what is going on in Tower Hamlets,” he said.

London is seen as one of the world’s leading global cities. That reputation is under threat if we don’t get Brexit right.”

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