Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union in a landmark referendum last month has the potential to jeopardize the stability of women’s rights in the UK. The EU is the law enforcing body that upholds many of the equality legislation in Europe.
Equal pay, workplace discrimination, and maternity rights are all labour rights instituted and protected by the EU, according to a report released by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in May 2016. This will all change with a Brexit.
“Many of the improvements in working women’s rights have come from EU case law – court rulings that then had to be followed in similar cases across all member states,” the TUC report said. “But if Britain left the EU, the UK government would be free to override any judgement that improved workers’ rights.”
The EU also dedicated €6.17 billion between 2014-2020 towards gender equality programming and has initiated several programs to combat violence against women.Britain’s departure from the EU will mean that women will lose many of the benefits and resources afforded to them by the EU.
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, takes an optimistic stance despite all of this. She said that Brexit may present an opportunity to rebuild Britain with women at the negotiating table. “I am more convinced than ever that the only way for Britain to thrive is to work across divides and put the intersectional experiences of all women at the heart of our new plans for growth.”
Theresa May is the incoming prime minister of Britain, home secretary and former minister of women and equalities. In the turbulent aftermath of Brexit, May will have a lot of work to do to ensure that the rights of all women are protected.
The Sexism of Brexit, Feministing, June 30 2016
What Brexit Could Mean for Women, Huffington Post, July 1 2016