Westminster Hall Debate Plug: Leaving the EU, Women’s Rights

Today Rupa Huq MP is set to hold the government to account…


Progress on equality is at risk. Gender issues are at the back of a long Brexit queue but if we don’t fight for them, we lose, and we lose fast.

Some may have forgotten that we are mid celebration of women’s right to vote in Britain because it is awkwardly coupled with the thunder stealing topic on everyone’s lips: the calamity that is Brexit. So, let me remind those that, in the middle of this blurry celebration, Westminster owes it to us – the 50.7% of the British population who are women – to deliver when certain asks are made. One such ask will take place today, the day MPs return from holiday.

Diving straight into action, the effortlessly cool MP and champion of women’s rights, Rupa Huq MP for Ealing Central and Acton, is set to hold the government to account over women’s rights – specifically, “women’s rights at risk in Brexit Britain”.

Brexit, it cannot be denied, has thus far felt caked in testosterone. On our right we have Boris Johnson throwing a tantrum over the Chequers deal and resigning after not getting his way (cry us a river), and on the left we have Jeremy Corbyn, cross armed, refusing to accept that we are not in the seventies.

And then there’s Nigel Farage, foraging for fame right and centre – the centre being London, a man who from the London Eye can see every constituency that rejected him. Yet, this pinnacle of patriarchy still thinks he has a chance in the running.

Unbeknown to many – because, why would we know, it’s not as if the government has ever sung the EU’s praises in the 40 years we’ve contributed – UK Employment law is largely made up of EU law, much of which safeguards women in work.

Why? Because part-timer, casual and agency workers’ rights, are women, not least because of childcare duties. EU law balances the inherent imbalance between employer and employee. Hard won rights of maternity and paternity leave and indeed pregnancy discrimination all came from the EU and we have no guarantee that we will uphold these and future advances after March 29th.

NHS nurses from EU nations are already leaving in droves and the care sector, (mostly female) is being hollowed out as a profession that UK-born are eschewing. In such situations it is often women who bear the burden as unofficial carers in any case.

Does anyone seriously believe that the men driving Brexit, Johnson and Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Farage and Dominic Raab (what a poignantly patriarchal bunch) have that as a priority for their post-Brexit Britain? These are just some points Rupa Huq will lodge when she debates the government.  

The furore surrounding David Davis (yet another fickle resignee) and his perfunctory “impact assessments” emphasised the absence of any gender impact assessments conducted by the Brexiteers whatsoever. That is, until the Women’s Budget Group took in under their wing to do the work of the government – much like Gina Miller, who put on the opposition’s hat when no other party contested the government’s attempted power grab to invoke Article 50 without Parliament’s consent.

It is becoming starkly clear, as we push back the prickly thorns of austerity, that our rights are at risk and that the Leave camp and the government have offered no alternatives to what we will lose.

So, here we are, celebrating the centenary of female suffrage and Brexit is yet another obstacle to the attainment of equality. We must fight to get a vote on the final deal, we owe it to the memory of the suffragettes too, to use it. And we owe it to ourselves to get that vote, safeguard our rights and reverse the catastrophic path we are on.

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