Women “have the most to lose” from Brexit, a Labour MP has warned.
Rupa Huq argued that “there’ll be an even worse scenario in store for women” through the UK’s departure from the EU.
The MP for Ealing Central and Acton said two years after the Brexit referendum, uncertainty remained over the final deal, with Brexit now taking up “valuable parliamentary bandwidth”.
Speaking during her Westminster Hall debate on women’s rights after the UK leaves the EU, she said: “What we do know though is that every government impact survey for every region of the country, every sector of the economy predicts that things will be worse and that a multitude of factors all sort of add up to this inescapable conclusion that women are hardest of all hit by Brexit.”
The Brexit debate, she argued, was dominated by “dark suited chaps engaged in Tory blue-on-blue warfare”.
She added: “This is a massive oversight particularly as when one drills down to the gendered nature of the effects of Brexit – we all have heard of lost jobs, cuts to services and a squeeze on family budgets, it is women I would contend who have the most to lose.
“It’s now coming to light that there’ll be an even worse scenario in store for women even though we now have a prime minister who is one.”
No deal or a bad deal, she said, would put the UK in a weak position to resist pressure from other countries or go for scenarios which would damage women’s rights at work, adversely affect them as consumers or undermine the quality of public service standards.
Huq backed a people’s vote as she spoke about the negative impact of Brexit on the NHS and social care workforce, adding: “Hard-won rights of maternity and paternity leave and indeed pregnancy discrimination all came from the EU and we have no guarantee that we’ll uphold these or that we will mirror future advances.”
She called on the minister to detail discussions ensuring that Brexit “doesn’t disproportionately harm women” and what steps the government was taking to ensure equalities rights were not diluted after Brexit.
Responding, minister for women Victoria Atkins claimed the UK had been a gender equality trailblazer, “leading the world” with gender pay gap regulations.
Thanks to provisions in the EU (Withdrawal) Act, she said, every piece of EU exit law would include an equalities impact statement.
She said: “There will be no reductions in protection under the Equalities Act 2006 and 2010 and the equivalent provisions in Northern Ireland as a result of us exiting the EU.
“Our key EU exit white paper notes that existing workers’ rights enjoyed under EU law will continue to be available in UK law on the day of withdrawal. The UK already exceeds EU minimum standards in a number of areas and is a leader in many others.”
She went on: “We don’t need to be part of the EU to have strong protections for workers or high standards in the work place.”