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We must focus on strengths of diverse communities

Here's my column from this week's Ham & High on the need to defend our pluralistic society in post referendum Britain.

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In post referendum Britain it is vital we defend our Pluralistic Society.

Cold winds are blowing our way, with government attempts to stop Parliament voting on the terms of Brexit, proposals to have schools report on the immigration status of their students and increasingly menacing rhetoric on immigrants. Attempts to make companies publicly list their foreign workers were roundly condemned and quickly shelved, but not before helping to fan the flames of division and hostility for people who have come to this country and contribute so much to our society.

At the school gates and outside the supermarket I see little joy in my constituency where 75 % of people voted 'to remain', not just for the sense of opportunity and future prosperity which the EU provides to younger generations, but also from a belief that diversity is a strength. Since the referendum, hate crime has increased, with the distressing account of a young woman’s hijab being ripped from her head in broad daylight in Haringey recently causing shockwaves in the local community.

Where many EU citizens felt British, many wonder whether they're still welcome and worry that their jobs and their livelihoods are at risk. One way the Government could change this would be by clarifying that EU citizens already in the UK will not see their legal status affected by Brexit. Labour has consistently called for the Government to do this and to emphasise that people should not be used as pawns in Brexit negotiations. Yet to date the Government has refused.

We must redouble our efforts to make community cohesion mean something and next month I will be holding a public meeting in the constituency to update local residents on the action I’ve been taking in Parliament on your behalf. I am Secretary and Co-Founder of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on UK-EU Relations which will seek to form a positive and progressive relationship with our EU neighbours, in contrast to the Government’s divisive rhetoric.

Where the government seeks to distance the UK from European human rights law, it serves as a useful reminder that it was British legal minds who inspired and drafted the EU's equality and human rights legislation. Let's not lose sight of the strengths of diverse communities and our traditions of defending human rights and the vision of a diverse and more equal society.

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Catherine West MP

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