Brexit – the saviour of women’s rights or their end?


brexit-1491370_960_720It’s been a month now but how many of us realised that the 20th of February marked the one year anniversary of when the date of the EU Referendum was announced. Obviously this date isn’t nearly as significant as the 23rd of June but it got me thinking – how is ‘Brexit’ really going to affect women?

For over a year now we have heard about various futures for Britain post-Brexit. Some say we’ll enter economical turmoil, some say we’ll be absolutely fine. The truth however, may only be realised until the day we leave officially comes.

How many of us can really say we know the negatives and positives facing women which come from the EU? We don’t even know for certain what percentage of our laws are influenced by the EU – David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage all put forward incorrect figures. Britons are some of the least educated Europeans on how the EU works – perhaps this contributed to the outcome of the referendum.

Most of the negatives surrounding the EU don’t necessarily focus on what women would gain from leaving but more on the economical issues around our membership. The most popular being how much Britain pays for its place in the EU – around £350 million a week. This was famously campaigned for on the side of a big red bus which claimed that this money could go towards the NHS instead – funnily enough, the day after the referendum result, Nigel Farage quickly disassociated himself from the ‘Brexit bus’.

“The EU lags behind the UK on women’s rights” – Suzanne Evans

However, commentators have pointed out some interesting benefits leaving the EU could have for women. Maternity wards have seen an increase of patients which have left some in difficulty during various stages of a birth. Some have blamed EU immigration policy for this.
A key argument for the Remain camp has been that women’s rights are better protected within the EU – this has been argued against by Leavers. Some say that Britain proposed women’s rights before entering the EU. Suzanne Evans for the international Banking Times in an article titled Why Women Should Vote to Leave the EUstates that: “The EU lags behind the UK on women’s rights”.

But so many have made claims that women are far better off in, than outside the EU. One huge positive is that women have guaranteed equal pay through the EU. I can hear the cries of many a Brexiteer: “The UK created the Equal Pay Act in 1970, three years before we joined the EU!” Well my friends, the EU (or rather the European Community at the time) already had provisions for equal pay thanks to the Treaty of Rome in 1957. We would have benefited from this regulation sooner had former French President, Charles de Gaulle not vetoed Britain from joining the three communities built up during the treaty!

Signing of the Treaty of Rome, 25th March 1957 – European Parliament Audiovisual Services

A book could be written about this topic, perhaps one day soon someone will. Maybe if we were better educated about the EU or had more time to plan for various scenarios we wouldn’t be in this current state of the ‘unknown’. But with many comments about the impacts of Brexit being hypothetical, we won’t know what to expect until Article 50 is enacted on the 29th of June – that’s if Theresa May follows through on her promises.


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