Brexit has always been a big deal for women. It is women’s working rights, women’s jobs, and the public services that women rely on that have always been most at risk from leaving the EU. And yet women’s voices have been largely absent from the debate.
Only one woman was sent to Brussels as part of the UK’s negotiating team. The Department for Exiting the EU is 62% male and in Commons debates on the EU, nearly 90% of speaking time was taken up by men, even though 32% of MPs are women.
It should come as no surprise, then, that this latest deal has nothing in it for women.
In contrast to Boris’s side-of-a-bus promises of £350million per week for the NHS, the truth is that Brexit is already costing public finances £500million a week. And women are already suffering.
Women, especially those from poorer households, tend to be the ones who manage family finances, and with inflation rising and wages down, they are squeezing themselves in order to try to shield their families from the worst consequences of Brexit.
Women make up 77% of the NHS workforce and 80% of our social care workforce. An economic downturn will mean public spending is cut and jobs are lost. It will also mean that women will have reduce their paid hours in order to plug the gaps in public services. This won’t just result in women being poorer, it will also have a knock-on effect on the economy as the state loses out on vital income tax contributions.
And with a spiralling economy, women’s pockets will take a further hit. Brexit means that the average woman’s pay will be 65p an hour lower that it would have been otherwise, which translates to about £1250 a year for those who work full time.
The EU has introduced new rules on pay transparency, compensation and fines for companies that continue to break equal pay rules ― but the UK has failed to implement them and when we leave there will be no one to make us do it.
There will also be no-one to stop the government from bartering away women’s hard-won working rights — rights that leading Brexiters, including Cabinet ministers, are keen to scrap.
This Blokes’ Brexit is a disaster for women, and Theresa May has once again failed to stand up for women. It’s time to give women a proper say. It’s time to give us a People’s Vote.
Caroline Criado-Perez is a feminist activist and journalist