The UK could see a fresh rise in hate crime against EU nationals after Article 50 is triggered, a UK watchdog has warned. Great Britain saw a surge in hate crime in the months following the decision to leave the EU on 23 June 2016.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to trigger Article 50 before the end of March, which will untangle the UK's relationship with the bloc.
The process is expected to take at least two years, although trade deals are expected to take far longer.
But Article 50 could be triggered earlier after May outlined on 17 January plans to leave the single market in order to secure immigration controls and to remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
On Wednesday (18 January) chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) David Isaac told MPs on the Women and Equalities committee that he was "hugely concerned" about a possible surge in hate crime.
"We are hugely concerned about what might happen in relation to an increase in hate crime when Article 50 is triggered," he told MPs.
"I believe, we are uniquely placed to be doing all of this at a time when Britain needs guidance in relation to huge anxiety that resides, not just in relation to non-UK citizens and our visitors, but actually many of our own citizens."
Isaac, who said he was particularly concerned about the Polish community, also called on police to be prepared for a surge in hate crime.
He continued: "And so, to give you examples of what we are seeking to do, we are meeting with groups, we are seeking to ensure that there is as much police protection and understanding in relation to hate crimes as is possible".
One of the most high-profile cases of a suspected hate crime was the killing of 40-year-old Arkadiusz Jozwik in Harlow. A 15-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons is due to appear on 27 January charged with his manslaughter, after six boys were arrested.
May is now awaiting a historic judgment on whether MPs should have a vote on invoking Article 50 which is expected to be handed down by the Supreme Court on 24 January.
One month after the Brexit vote, Scotland Yard said they made over 400 arrests related to hate crime allegations – including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and assault. The number of complaints recorded by Metropolitan Police also rose from 25 to 50 a day to between 57 and 78.