I I N N T T E E R R N N A A T T I I O O N N A A L L S S C C I I E E N N T T I I F F I I C C P P E E E E R R - - R R E E V V I I E E W W E E D D J J O O U U R R N N A A L L


Dis-Integration: Reflections on the legal, policy and practical challenges resulting from the UK's withdrawal from the European Union

In 2016 the UK citizens voted by a small margin to leave the European Union, a collaboration of which it had been a founding member. The following four years witnessed media messages that reinforced public narratives of ‘taking back control’ and ‘national sovereignty’, deepening social divisions and promoting populism. At the same time, as there had been no agreement about what withdrawal would mean, even between elected representatives, parliament consistently failed to achieve consensus on the terms of that withdrawal. Indeed, there was an unsuccessful attempt by the then prime minister to achieve a ‘no-deal’ withdrawal by illegally proroguing parliament. The rule of law is a vital balance in a democratic system. In the UK it is increasingly visible as contested ground as the right-wing government seek to legislate for political ends.


There is no doubt that the consequences of leaving the EU have been detrimental to Britain’s economic health with a growth in homelessness and in the number of households experiencing food insecurity. At the same time, substantial legislation has been enacted to further limit people’s freedom to protest and to seek to control inward migration.  Most recently, controlling migration has become so politicised that a law is proposed to assert Rwanda’s safety for people seeking asylum as a remedy to the supreme court’s ruling that it was unsafe.


The functions of law have been identified by UK scholars as: the regulation of power structures; social engineering; shaping attitudes and behaviours; promoting ideology; and finding solutions to social problems. This paper shines a light on the destructive consequences of the law being used in the service of a neoliberal agenda, taking the perspective of a small NGO in southwest England to illustrate the consequences of Brexit for refugees, students and wider society.


Students and Refugees Together (START), winner of the European Citizens Award in 2017, has, for 22 years, provided support to people granted leave to remain whilst providing practical placements to students of social work and allied professions. From this perspective, the loss of international cooperation and the proliferation of new legislations has contributed to a dis-integration in social mobility, understanding and human rights.


Keywords: Law and policy, strengths approach, student learning, Brexit, international mobility.