Now that millions of Britons have decided to leave the European Union, we explore what comes next.
Poland’s ambassador in London has expressed shock and concern about what he said were incidents of xenophobic abuse directed against the Polish community following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
Dozens of alleged racist incidents were reported to the police in parts of England over the weekend, including cases where Poles and other eastern Europeans were the victims of racial abuse.
In Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, local media said police were investigating reports that signs reading “No more Polish vermin” had been distributed in the area, including outside schools, hours after the referendum’s result – a 52 to 48 split in favour of Britain’s exit – was announced on Friday.
In a separate incident in Hammersmith, west London, the front of a Polish cultural centre was reportedly smeared with offensive graffiti.
“We are shocked and deeply concerned by the recent incidents of xenophobic abuse directed against the Polish community and other UK residents of migrant heritage,” Witold Sobkow, the Polish ambassador in London, said in a statement on Monday.
Sobkow said the embassy had been in contact with the “relevant institutions” and that police were investigating the Hammersmith and Huntingdon cases.
“We call on all Polish nationals who fall victim of xenophobic abuse and on all witnesses to report such incidents to local authorities,” Sobkow said.
Campaign of fear and hate
The approximately 800,000-strong Polish community in the UK accounts for one of the top three minority groups in the country.
On Thursday, the UK became the first country in the history of the European Union to vote to leave the 28-member bloc, following a referendum campaign replete with racism and fear.
The issue of immigration dominated the public debate in the run-up to the vote, with Brexit backers arguing that the UK could never control immigration until it left the EU.
In the aftermath of the murder of Labour MP Jox Cox, campaigners for Brexit faced accusations that they caused the debate about immigration to become too toxic.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the former Conservative Party chairwoman and the first Muslim woman to serve in the Tory cabinet, defected to the “Remain” camp before the vote, citing “hate and xenophobia” as the reasons for changing her position.
A few days before the referendum, the far-right, anti-immigrant UKIP party was accused of racism after unveiling a poster showing a queue of refugees with the slogan “Breaking point” and a plea to leave the EU.