Brexit, and the effect on women

adrby Andrew R.

(I am a member of the Church living in the UK. I have a wife, six daughters, one son (on a mission) and four grandchildren. I am currently serving as stake clerk and stake Sunday School president and I work as a Database and Systems Developer.)

I have to say that when, perhaps in jest, Spunky suggested a guest post from me I was a little stunned. Firstly, I am not a feminist. I believe in women’s rights. And I certainly do not believe that women are less than men in any way shape or form. However, I have fairly formed views pertaining to my belief system in respect of generalised gender roles. Second, I am not a writer. Anyone who has read my comments on threads here knows that. I do not always get my point across in the best way, nor do I do it without ruffling feathers I didn’t intend to ruffle. That said, I was asked about submitting a post with respect to the Brexit referendum and how it might have an effect on women in the UK.

I cast my vote to remain. I spent the last two to three months of the run up to the vote at anything from 60:40 to 80:20 Remain:Leave. In my heart, as a British citizen I love my country, and what it stands for. As such to leave seemed a good option. We maintain sovereignty. However, in my head, in relation to the company I work for, and my children and grandchildren, together with the ideals of a common Europe I saw Remain as the thing to do.

I have entered into debates, mostly taking the Remain side, with members of my stake, and those I work with. I have entered those debates in the same way I enter into them here, often with similar results.

So to the topic at hand. How will Brexit affect the lives of women in the UK?

One of the things that being in the EU has given us is a bunch of legislation. Those voting to Leave see this a one of the main reasons, behind immigration, to leave the EU. “We need to take back sovereignty,” is the cry. “Brussels makes too many of our laws,” we have heard. And yet, those listening to this rhetoric, and being taken in by it, are often at the lower end of the social scale. They are in the poorer paid jobs, often voting Labour, and generally the ones benefiting from said legislation.

As great as Great Britain is, there has always been a fight between Government and the Unions for workers’ rights. Minimum wage, and now living wage, working hours directives, health and safety rules, minimum paid holiday regulation, and much more have all come as a result of EU membership and legislation. Much of that, due to the imbalance of gender pay, has benefited women – especially single women who could work fewer hours for the same pay and holiday.
I am not saying that we wouldn’t, and certainly that we couldn’t, have had those if we had been out of Europe. But I cannot be certain, and if pushed I would have to say we wouldn’t. So being in the EU, I believe, has been good for workers in general, and probably disproportionately benefited women.

Now those benefits will not go away because Great Britain voted Leave. But I don’t believe that those types of issues will be top of anyone’s agenda in the British government.

So a Brexit will probably have a significant effect on the lower paid, often women. It will certainly have an effect on those receiving benefits, again often women (abandoned by men). And it will have an effect on those Europeans who have come to the UK to work, most often as a benefit to Britain, with the hope of bettering their lives, and the lives of their families – again bringing many women out of poverty, and helping to better educate girls.

I voted Remain because I believed it was the socially responsible thing to do. I didn’t do it for women in particular. But having thought about it, because of Spunky’s request I believe women could have been the winners if we Remained, and might well be the losers because we Left.

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5 Responses

  1. Quimby says:

    Thanks for this Andrew. My dad and I got into a similar discussion last week with regards to the upcoming Bundy trials in Oregon. It was launched by an article I shared with him which was basically arguing that the Bundys and their supporters are a rural western version of the urban poor in the rust belt – they are frustrated and disenfranchised and feel like they’ve been left behind by the new economy. My understanding is that there is a similar sentiment in much of the poorer classes of the UK. So the question is: How do you deal with that? What is a government supposed to do when a very large minority of its citizens feel they’ve been dealt a crappy hand?

    The traditional left-wing answer is, of course, increased government support. As a self-declared bleeding heart commie I am a Big Government person; I firmly believe it’s the role of the government to provide essential social services including health care, and to provide the unemployed with a decent substitute income. However it doesn’t take a genius to see that this can’t be permanent; that we can’t have generation after generation living off the tax-payer. (I also argue with myself here because so often the industries that still provide a decent wage are heavily subsidised by the government; so what’s the difference if money is going directly to a family in the form of unemployed benefits or if it’s going indirectly to a family via industry benefits in the form of generous tax breaks, subsidies, tariffs, government contracts, etc.?) The death of some industries such as mining in the UK or steel in the US has been on the cards now for 40 years. (Or in the case of the Bundys, they are glorifying a past that quite simply never existed.) Surely that should be enough time to move on from the past?

    The traditional right-wing answers aren’t any better. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard conservatives say, “It’s their fault for staying in a dead-end town.” People stay in dead-end towns because there are no better alternatives. They are either there because their families are (and they need family support) or because they can’t afford to leave (dead-end towns have dead-cheap housing.) Or, “They need to get an education.” Education takes time (which might be time away from a crappy, poorly-paid job that puts real food on the table today instead of pretend food on the table tomorrow) and money (even if the government covers your tuition you still need to buy books, etc.) Not to mention, which jobs in which industries? Five years ago young people in Australia were all told to go west and take up mining. Now those jobs are few and far between. Just because you train for something, doesn’t mean there will be a job there when you finish.

    So what do you do? I can understand the frustration. I can sympathise with the feeling that they’ve been left behind. I grew up in a left-behind town. I know what it’s like, to be used as the region’s garbage dump because people are so desperate for jobs, they don’t care if those jobs will kill them. It’s a bad feeling. But what are the answers?

  2. spunky says:

    I’m so pleased that you wrote this, Andrew R. The request was not in jest, and I am grateful for your insider’s view of Brexit and it’s implications for women.

    Have you any thoughts on the effect it will have on immigration/emigration?

    • Andrew R. says:

      I think that, in large part, depends on the deal that has to be struck in the Article 50 discussions. I think that for the sort of trade deals we want freedom of movement may have to be on the table, in at least some form.

      So we are a long way off really seeing the effects in full.

  3. Liz says:

    Andrew, I’m really glad that you wrote this. These are effects that I hadn’t considered, and I’m glad that you brought them to my attention. Thank you!

  4. Em says:

    I’m really glad you wrote too, especially because it’s so easy to be anonymous on the internet. When you disagree with someone and you also don’t know them it’s easy to be dismissive. By writing a post I feel like I know you a little better. You’re a person, not anonymous comment. It’s easier to love thy neighbor when you know your neighbor. So thanks for weighing in! I hadn’t really considered the gendered impact of brexit

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