Brexit is a Feminist Issue

A letter by Joyce Quinn, Vice President European Movement UK, to mark International Women’s Day.

I’m a former woman MEP and Europe Minister, and today, on International Women’s Day, I’m here to make the case that Brexit is a feminist issue.   

That’s because, when the UK left the European Union, key protections and rights for women that are enshrined in EU law were put at risk.   

What’s more, the UK lost its seat at the table when it comes to advocating for more ambitious changes across the EU. Your voice, and your perspective, are missed, because we can achieve more when we work together.  

Gender equality is a founding aim of the EU and it is recognised as a fundamental right in EU law.   

As EU members, the UK helped shape key pieces of equality legislation. But women in the UK also benefited when the EU pushed the British government to adopt stronger protections such as:

  • the right to equal pay for work of equal value in 1983
  • better protection from sexual harassment in 2006, and;
  • the right to parental leave in 1999.  

Post-Brexit, all of these protections are far more vulnerable. And whilst I sincerely hope that the UK doesn’t fall behind the rest of Europe, there’s no doubt that leaving the EU removed a powerful safety net.   

But International Women’s Day is a moment of celebration. So, while there remains much work to be done – we can also recognise some of the biggest milestones for women that the EU has brought about.