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4 September 2018

Women know they’ll suffer most from Brexit. So they’re going to fight it

At the launch of the Women for a People’s Vote campaign, the message was clear: women don’t want this mess of a Brexit.

By luciana berger

As public opinion shifts against Brexit across the board, it is women who are very much leading the way in the fight to remain in the European Union. Unsurprisingly, it is also women who will be most affected by leaving the bloc.

The latest YouGov analysis suggests women now back staying in the EU by a margin of 12 points (56 per cent to 44 per cent), compared to a two-point margin for men (51 per cent to 49 per cent).

It’s little wonder. Brexit could negatively affect almost one million women’s jobs and see the gender pay gap widen. It would risk the loss of hard-earned protections for maternity pay, workplace rights and against harassment and discrimination. History has shown that when the NHS, the economy, and fundamental rights are on the line, it is women who are most vulnerable.

Which is why yesterday saw the launch of the Women for a People’s Vote campaign. The message at the event was clear: women don’t want this mess of a Brexit. We know it will leave us disproportionately worse off, and it’s about time the view of half the population was heard. Women deserve the chance to have their say about the future, as research suggests it is overwhelmingly their future, and their daughters’ futures, that will be most impacted.

Right now, only 13 per cent of women believe Britain will get a good deal with the EU, and 83 per cent think that attempts to leave the EU have so far been a mess.

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Yet despite their general growing discontent, only 11 per cent of the UK’s Brexit negotiating team are female. What’s more, men outnumber women in parliament two to one; hold all but one of the ministerial positions in the Brexit department; and dominate among political press and commentary.

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Now, through the Women for a People’s Vote campaign, there is an opportunity to reset the agenda to ensure that women’s voices are heard.

At the launch, speakers including campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, comedian and political commentator Ayesha Hazarika, NUS vice-president Emily Chapman, columnist Rachel Johnson, and the chair of the Royal College of Nursing Maria Trewern, all came together to make the irrefutable case that women must be represented in this critical national discussion.

As Brexit reaches crunch point, we need to widen the debate to include the issues faced by ordinary women on a daily basis. With Theresa May held hostage by the grandstanding of Boris Johnson and plotting of Jacob Rees-Mogg, a People’s Vote is the best way to ensure the whole population can have a say on a decision that will affect our country for generations.

As women move decisively against Brexit and the chaotic negotiations, it is so uplifting to see the launch of Women for a People’s Vote. The media and politicians can no longer side-line women’s concerns.

By broadening the Brexit debate and finally starting to listen to women, we can ensure we are equally represented, and given a rightful say on any Brexit deal.

Luciana Berger is the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree and a leading supporter of Women for a People’s Vote