23 June 2016
If the UK votes to leave the EU, the consequences will be significant and far reaching. Though no one knows what’s going to happen for sure, most experts predict that the economy will suffer, the NHS will be negatively affected and Britain will become a lot more isolated.
One issue that hasn’t been widely discussed however is how the Brexit would affect the sex industry. At the moment, a lot of EU nationals are involved in the UK industry and many more sex workers rely on EU laws to protect them and give them a platform to fight for more rights. So if the UK does leave the EU, how would this affect the sex industry and would sex workers be worse or better off in the future?
People from other parts of Europe, and the rest of the world, have long been drawn to the UK by the chance to make money in the sex industry. Whether or not they intend to become sex workers when they arrive, many people are drawn into the industry by their circumstances.
If the UK votes ‘Leave’, EU nationals may no longer have the automatic right to live and work in the UK. If it becomes more difficult to move to the UK legally, this may cause a reduction in the number of sex workers coming from European countries. What it may also do is force more people into the hands of traffickers. EU nationals who are determined to come to the UK, but who can’t get a visa, may be more likely to pay traffickers to bring them to Britain, putting them at a higher risk of exploitation and abuse.
On the other hand, if Britain does leave the EU then this could present an opportunity for the UK government to continue progressing with work related to sex work and sex trafficking without having to work within the lines of EU legislation.
Laws and regulations
The country’s current membership of the EU guarantees sex workers certain rights and protection under its rules and regulations. For example, Romanian sex workers in London are currently using EU law to challenge the Metropolitan police and to fight for their rights to live and work legally in the UK.
If Britain left the EU, sex workers from other European countries wouldn’t be able to use EU law to uphold their rights and there’s a chance that many could be unfairly targeted by the police and other organisations. Alternatively, if the UK votes to Remain, progressive EU laws, and the influence of more forward thinking member states, could well have a positive impact on the lives of the UK’s sex workers.
If Britain were to leave the EU the new found freedom this may bring could mean that voices on sex work are more easily heard. Therefore the work organisations like Doorway are doing with local communities may be able to highlight the issues that needs addressing to the UK government more effectively.
If you’d like to find out more about the help and support that’s available to sex workers, get in touch with Doorway Women’s Services on 0808 800 1030.