As Tories like Michael Gove prepare to pull us out of the EU and the implications of Brexit are discussed, what’s missing from the debate is the impact it would have on women.
This comes as no surprise: women’s voices have been absent from the referendum since day one. But it is women who will fare worst from the fall-out and Labour must be there to fight our corner.
When the Conservative Government leads negotiations, Labour must hold them to account on how our values of equality and solidarity will be protected and push for women’s voices to be central to the debate.
When the Tories try to use our exit from the EU to weaken workers’ rights, Labour must not just defend rights for new mums, women facing discrimination and part-time workers, but push to extend them.
When the economy suffers and the Tories try to impose further austerity and cut the services women rely on, Labour must defend those services and the women who have already shouldered 85 per cent of the cuts.
At home as at work EU legislation has protected women. The EU has led the way on victims’ rights, giving vulnerable women and girls access to services and support they wouldn’t have otherwise had. At the heart of new laws introduced between 2011 and 2015 is guaranteed access to justice for the most vulnerable as well as a commitment to physical and psychological support following sexual and domestic violence.
This is not an issue that should be brushed under the carpet as male politicians discuss the ins and outs of an unstable economy without regard for the most vital services.
We must also keep up the fight to protect women beyond our borders. Not only has the EU protected British women, but migrant women and girls fleeing conflict. Europol allows member states to share information and best practice in order to stop human trafficking, which is rife on our continent and acts across borders. Labour and the UK should not turn its back on those who need our cooperation most.
A UK exit from the EU makes Labour’s role more important than ever. The EU reflects the values we hold so strongly as Labour members: equality is central to the EU’s work and EU legislation has done a huge amount to progress women’s equality; and we know we’re stronger when we work together, in solidarity. As Brexit puts those values at threat, we need Labour to be fighting for them.