Ten million disabled people will lose out if UK leaves EU, senior Euro-MP warns

Disabled people stand to lose more than any other group if Britain votes to quit the European Union, a senior Labour MEP warns today.

In a speech to the Papworth Trust disability charity in Cambridge, Richard Howitt MEP, co-president of the European Parliament’s all-party disability rights group of MEPs, will say people with disabilities will always want to tear barriers down rather than erect new ones.

Job assistance to thousands of people with disabilities, access requirements to buildings and public transport, and the right to legal defence against unfair denial of social care services could all be lost if Britain votes to leave the EU, Mr Howitt, who worked in the disability movement before entering politics, will warn.

Eighty seven thousand British disabled people were helped towards work by European-funded training last year, Mr Howitt will say, adding EU ‘Remain’ campaigners should “proudly attest” the ability of people with disabilities to defend legal rights through the European courts.

Mr Howitt MEP will tell the Papworth Trust:

“In all the talk of ‘free movement’, what about the right of a wheelchair user to move freely to visit another European country? Discrimination doesn’t stop at borders.

“On the table, we have a European-wide general Accessibility Act, that could further transform the lives of millions of people.

“People with disabilities will always campaign to pull down barriers. In the European referendum, the Disability Movement should campaign against erecting new barriers.

“For the disabled woman who sued her local authority for cutting her care package, protection against “cruel and degrading treatment” is an important defence of decent public services in the current climate of austerity.

“The lesson to the EU ‘Leave’ campaign is that independence and inter-dependence can go together, for people and for nations.”