Hate speech on the rise after Brexit

Participants in the March for Europe on 2nd July gather in London
Participants in the March for Europe on 2nd July gather in London


In the wake of the Brexit vote, there was a a spike in hate speech incidents and xenophobic attacks against people from different migrant communities, both physically and on social media. Reported hate crime incidents rose by 42% in the week before and the week after the referendum. Political leaders were quick to condemn any form of aggression toward foreigners in the UK, while the United Nations urged the UK to implement measures to deal with the spike in post-referendum racist attacks. 

Peaceful Assembly

The March for Europe on 2nd July was the most significant public gathering in recent months, and came in the wake of a decision by 52% of referendum voters that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union. During the march, an estimated 30,000 people took to the streets of London to voice thier opposition to the referendum result.

As part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, hundreds of people also took to the streets of London in early July to protest against the police killing of black men Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana. 

Violence broke out on 20th July in west London as a crowd of mostly young people gathered for an impromptu music party in Hyde Park. Witnesses reported that, as the police presence grew, bottles and other missiles were thrown at law enforcement personnel and the police tried to disperse the crowd.


In May, the Government published a provisional  implementation plan for the new Charities Act, which received Royal  Assent in March. Key provisions of the Act, such as the discretionary disqualification power and reserve powers to regulate fundraising, are timetabled to come into force in July 2016. Others, such as the power to issue official warnings are due to be brought in October 2016. Powers to automatically disqualify a trustee and prevent their participation in corporate decisions will come into force in April 2017. The Charity Commission has launched a three-month consultation on how it will exercise its new powers to disqualify individuals from being trustees. Civil society organisations have expressed concern that the new power to disqualify has been drawn too broadly. The independent Fundraising Regulator set up in January 2016 has now begun to operate and has launched its website. The aim of the Fundraising Regulator is to strengthen regulation of fundraising within the charitable sector, and restore public trust in fundraising.


Earlier this this year, UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai undertook his second official visit to the UK, as a follow-up to his 2013 visit. He noted that the UK takes its role as one of the global leaders in human rights seriously, but cautioned against a series of domestic measures that have resulted in the “closing of space for civil society.” He also expressed concerns about the planned Counter-Extremism Bill, the inquiry over police surveillance of activists, the policing of protests, and an upcoming Trade Union Bill could infringe on workers’ rights to freely associate.