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Equalities watchdog asks political parties to stop Brexit hate

Press Trust of India  |  London 

The UK's equalities watchdog today asked politicians to tone down their Brexit related rhetoric that has "polarised" the country and instead engage in "respectful debate" on the country's historic referendum to leave the European Union.

UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in a letter called for "accurate information and respectful debate" from politicians in the wake of Britain's referendum to leave the European Union (EU).

"We are concerned that attacks on supporters of both sides of the Brexit debate have polarised many parts of the country," the EHRC letter said.

"There are those who used, and continue to use, public concern about immigration policy and the economy to legitimise hate. The vast majority of people who voted to leave the did so because they believe it is best for and not because they are intolerant of others," it said.

The letter calls on the government to do more to combat hate peddled by a "small minority", as it also suggests there should be a review of the effectiveness of sentencing for hate crimes in England and Wales, including the ability to increase sentencing for hate crimes.

The EHRC, an independent statutory body which advises on equality and human rights law, states that "politicians of all sides should be aware of the effect on national mood of their words and policies" even when those policies are not acted upon - like the government's now-abandoned proposal for companies to list foreign workers.

"Your offices bring with them a responsibility to ensure that policy debate is conducted in a way that brings the country together and moves it forward," the EHRC stated.

"Robust discussion is a central pillar of our democracy and nothing should be done to undermine freedom of expression. The right to free and fair elections supported by accurate information and respectful debate is also essential to our democratic process," the letter said.

"Our elected representatives and the media should reflect and foster the best values in our society and engage people on contentious issues in a responsible and considered way," it added.

Home Office figures released in October showed racist or religious abuse incidents recorded by police in England and Wales jumped 41 per cent in the month after the voted to quit the
May had hoped to invoke Article 50 without having to seek

parliamentary approval but a legal challenge concluded in the Supreme Court earlier this week directed her to acquire the consent of both Houses of British Parliament.

MPs will debate the new Bill on Tuesday and Wednesday, the government has announced, with a third day of debate and a vote on February 8. It will then go to the House of Lords to be discussed.

The government hopes this process can take place smoothly for the May to adhere to her declared timetable of wanting to officially notify the of Britain's exit plans by the end of March.

Butthe Labour party is planning to table four amendments and the Scottish National Party are planning to table 60.

The Opposition MPs have also expressed their frustration that they will have just few days to debate the bill in Parliament.

First Published: Sun, November 27 2016. 18:57 IST