The Government’s decision to vote against guaranteeing the protection of key rights during the passage of the European Union Withdrawal Bill is deeply disappointing.
The EU currently provides vital protections against discrimination for women in the UK. In its current form, the bill will hand huge and unaccountable power to Government ministers to undermine these protections and change equality laws without proper parliamentary scrutiny. This is unacceptable.
Under this Government that means one thing – the rights of women, ethnic minority communities, LGBT+ communities, disabled people and others will be at risk. This is unacceptable.
Labour’s amendment to the bill sought to guarantee the rights of all those who are at risk from this Government’s reckless approach to Brexit. It would have ensured that Government ministers are not able to use unaccountable powers to erode the rights of people in our society.
We don’t trust the Tories to look after the rights of women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and other groups post-Brexit. Despite promising to tackle the burning injustices in society, Theresa May has burdened women with a shocking 86% of her Government’s cuts. Under her watch Employment Tribunal Fees penalised women and ethnic minority communities the most. Pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims alone fell by 45%, before the fees were found to be unlawful by the Supreme Court.
We don’t trust the Tories to look after the rights of women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and other groups post-Brexit
Having witnessed this damage and the Government’s record of failure, we cannot just take their word that rights will be protected. Their actions have proven that they are not trustworthy. We need it enshrined into law. People deserve to have confidence that their hard-fought rights will be as strong as ever post-Brexit.
Time and time again organisations such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Fawcett Society and many others have warned that the bill lacks sufficient safeguards against losing these protections.
Labour’s approach is the right one. From the beginning we have been consistent in fighting for a jobs-first Brexit, which protects not only the economy but also human rights and workers’ rights for all. Our positive and progressive agenda clearly demonstrates the type of country we want to live in.
The Government has continuously stated that they do not wish to see fundamental rights and freedoms weakened after Brexit. Yet when they had the opportunity to prove it, they failed that test by voting against our amendment.
This Government and this Prime Minister are all talk, no action, and cannot be trusted with people’s rights. But Labour will not give up the fight.
Dawn Butler is the shadow women and equalities secretary and Labour MP for Brent Central