New York – Brexit – the UK impending exit from the EU will drive more UK citizens into poverty unless the government takes action to shield the most vulnerable.

A woman walks past a house where “Vote Leave” boards are displayed in Redcar, north east England on June 27, 2016
Britain’s historic decision to leave the 28-nation bloc has sent shockwaves through the political and economic fabric of the nation. It has also fuelled fears of a break-up of the United Kingdom with Scotland eyeing a new independence poll, and created turmoil in the opposition Labour party where leader Jeremy Corbyn is battling an all-out revolt.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Mr Philip Alston, warned in a statement on Friday that Brexit posed “particular risk” to British people in poverty.

The UN envoy’s comments came at the end of a 12-day visit to the UK, which saw him travel to nine cities across the country, meeting members of civil society, frontline workers, and officials from a range of political parties in local, devolved and UK government.

He spoke to people directly affected by poverty, including some who depended on food banks and charities for the next meal, homeless families living on friends’ couches, and people who had sold sex in exchange for shelter.

With almost all studies showing that the UK economy will be worse off following Brexit, due to be triggered at the end of March 2019, the rights expert said the UK Government was treating the risks for the 14 million people currently living in poverty as “an afterthought”.

“In the fifth richest country in the world, this is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.

Four million of those affected are more than 50 per cent below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are destitute, which means that they are unable to afford basic essentials,’’ he said.

Alston pointed out that after years of progress, the poverty risk in the UK was on the rise, with homelessness up 60 per cent since 2010, and child poverty predicted to rise by seven per cent between 2015 and 2022.

The UN envoy said that policies implemented by successive governments had led to “the systematic dismantling of the social safety net (and) inflicted great misery unnecessarily, especially “on the working poor, on single mothers struggling against mighty odds.

“On people with disabilities who are already marginalised, and on millions of children who are locked into a cycle of poverty from which many will have great difficulty escaping.”

Britain’s leading employers’ organisation has sought to bolster support for Prime Minister Theresa May with a warning to MPs that rejecting the prime minister’s Brexit deal will lead to shortages and prevent vital supplies reaching the public.

n a show of support for May, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said the agreement reached between London and Brussels represented hard-won progress and added that going backwards would damage Britain’s prosperity.

The CBI is a UK business organisation, which in total speaks for 190,000 businesses made up of around 1,500 direct and 188,500 indirect members. (NAN)

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