Baroness Warsi says people have been given 'a licence to be racist' since Brexit referendum

Baroness Warsi says the Brexit referendum has given people a "licence to be racist". Credit: Tony Johnson
Baroness Warsi says the Brexit referendum has given people a "licence to be racist". Credit: Tony Johnson
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Dewsbury-born Tory peer Baroness Warsi has warned people have been given "a licence to be racist" since the Brexit referendum, with just 10 days to go until the UK is due to leave the European Union.

Speaking during a guest lecture at King's College university, the former co-chairwoman of the Conservative Party said the "toxic" Leave campaign had encouraged racism and that she had experienced it first-hand.

Baroness Warsi, who is from a family of Pakistani Muslim immigrants, spoke about Brexit and her upbringing at the university's Franklin-Wilkins lecture theatre in central London on January 21.

The event marked the start of a six-month partnership between the Migration Museum - which houses exhibits illustrating how the movement of people to and from Britain has shaped the nation - and King's College's Arts and Humanities Research Institute. Through 50 researchers working on the theme of migration, the partnership aims to build research and teaching links between the two.

Baroness Warsi said at the event, which was chaired by Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti: "What became increasingly apparent during the Brexit debate is people (politicians) were saying whatever it takes to win the vote.

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"We (Leave campaigners) were putting out a whole narrative where we were feeding the beast of bigotry. You can't run a toxic campaign and expect peace afterwards. We have unleashed a monster.

"In the past, most racists were afraid of being racist. Now they're not. I feel like people have been given licence to be racist."

Baroness Warsi added she had received death threats and racist abuse on Twitter, and said "moderate language at the top is key to changing attitudes".

When asked about the Prime Minister's use of inflammatory language on issues like race, Baroness Warsi told the PA news agency: "During the election campaign, Boris apologised for some of the language he used and the offence he caused.

"I'm hoping this is in the past. I'm hoping his language going forward will be measured and thoughtful."