Labour MP Harriet Harman has come out in support of staying in the EU, claiming women’s rights could not be guaranteed if Britain leaves.
Speaking to female employees at Lloyds of London, the former deputy leader of the Labour party asked, “Why should we trust the likes of Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan-Smith or Nigel Farage with our rights for women?”
“Even if they say they’d guarantee not to go below the rights for women that the EU guarantees – I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them. It’s your rights which are at stake here – so nor should you.”
The EU has been fundamental in introducing laws and legislation promoting equality, such as equal pay, maternity leave and sexual harassment. Harman argues that leaving the EU would mean that these rights would be lost.
Continuing, Harman said, “It’s easy to overlook, but it’s impossible to overstate how important the EU has been in our struggle for women’s rights at work.”
“Some of our rights actually came directly from the EU, some of our rights were enhanced because of the EU and, crucially, our rights as women at work can’t be taken away as they are guaranteed by our membership of the EU.”
“This is a paradox because the EU is every bit as woefully male-dominated as our own political institutions. But despite that, the historical fact is that the EU has led and strengthened our rights as women at work in this country and we shouldn’t take that for granted.”
“Faceless bureaucrats they may be, but the EU has been a strong friend to British women at work.”
However, Leave campaigners have claimed that Britain has gone further than the EU’s legislation and leaving does not mean an abandonment of these laws. Responding to Harman’s comments, Vote Leave’s Suzanne Evans told the Guardian that it was “utterly laughable” to say that “we need a bunch of former communist men in the EU commission to fight for women’s rights.”
Reports have recently argued that women could sway the votes when Britain goes to the polls on 23rd June. How (not) to talk about Europe, a report conducted by British Future, argues that this is due to their being more women than men in Britain. They state that, ‘women voters have the power to decide the EU referendum – if they choose to take it.’