As women, we need to talk about Brexit. It’s a mess. For too long the debate has been dominated by male voices within Westminster and the right-wing agenda of men like Jacob Rees-Mogg whose feminism is, well, shall we say, antiquated at best.
There is a very strong feminist and socialist case to make to stay and fight within the European Union. Because – let’s not sugar coat this – Brexit is nothing less than a disaster for women’s rights. And on this International Women’s Day, while there is lots to celebrate in the 100 years since (some) British women got the vote, it must be known that Brexit is not something to be celebrated.
Leaving the EU does nothing to advance feminism – it rolls it back. Many gender equality protections we take for granted have been fought for during our membership and protected by the safety net that is ‘the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights’. These include (but are not limited to) employment rights, funding for women’s services, safety across borders and consumer standards. It is no coincidence that the EU had ‘equality between men and women’ as a founding value, dating back to 1957. No wonder some members of the ‘European Research Group’ are keen to remove the EU as a bedrock of legal equality.
Feminism is the fight for equality – one that women have died for, made sacrifices for and worked hard for. Leaving the EU risks 46 years of hard-won protection for no gains at all for women. Brexit would damage women’s rights at work, would adversely impact them as consumers and would undermine the quality of public service standards, and our social and care sector. Outside of the EU women would no longer automatically benefit from future equality developments in EU law, such as laws protecting those on zero hours contracts set to come into force this year. It is thanks to the EU that we have shared parental leave, and the laws of unfair dismissal and constructive dismissal, which works massively in favour of women who can now exercise #MeToo confidently against anyone including an employer or colleague.
The Tory project of Brexit would make economic times tougher for the most vulnerable in society. This could also affect how many women go into politics, for too long the preserve of the privileged and the connected. Women have been under-represented in democratic structures for too long. While women now make up a record 32% of MPs in the House of Commons, the UK is still ranked only 39th globally. Our sisters in the Labour movement have fought for over a hundred years and broken ground at every point in the advancement of women’s rights and women in public life. From securing the vote for women, to fighting for equality in the workplace, fighting the vile abuse focused on female MPs to having more female MPs than any other party in British history, the Labour party has a strong tradition in fighting for our collective protections.
Nigel Farage’s project is not a feminist one and not one women should support – nor any feminist men in our party or beyond. Feminism is the pure opposite of the likes of Farage and his Brexit project. Equality, respect, women with full rights. And whereas Brexit is insular, EU membership allows us as feminist socialists to act to empower women internationally who find themselves fighting for their rights in conflict environments, fighting for resources in areas already feeling the worst impacts of climate change and allow us to work together across borders in Europe to deliver for women internationally.
Many people in the country want us to move past Brexit and get on with running the country. We couldn’t agree more – but the truth of it is, the only way we can move on is to give the people the final say over Brexit, otherwise Brexit would run for at least another decade.
It’s time to get organised, take up a leadership position and fight for a resolution on Brexit and for women across the country to have their voices heard. Women are more likely than men to have switched from Leave to Remain, and more than ever don’t want us to give us our membership of the EU. That’s why we need to unite as women of the left, women of Labour, women across the country, to make sure the people of our country get the final say on Brexit. The invention called Brexit was created by privileged men to serve the richest in society would result in a bonfire of equality rights, and the feminists that are part of Love Socialism, Hate Brexit, women and men alike, will fight to give the women of our country their vote on the most important constitutional question in our recent history.