Dear MEP candidates,
We are now just one week away from the European elections. For the people of the UK this is an unexpected opportunity to have their say; and for their representatives, a chance to deliver the best possible settlement for the UK and use their influence to guarantee the rights — from human and workers’ rights through to data protection — that are all at risk when we leave the EU.
The UK has long played a pivotal role on the world stage, including in promoting human rights and international development co-operation. Through its commitment to the 0.7% the UK has a global leadership role, has publicly demonstrated the best of British values through its solid commitment to poverty alleviation and assistance. As the UK defines its future relationship with the EU, it has become increasingly clear that the repercussions of leaving are manifold and complex and will impact many millions of people beyond our shores. In these increasingly polarised times, it is vital that we do not lose sight of the universal values, such as equality, solidarity and tolerance, that the majority of us hold dear.
Globally, we face major challenges – rising inequality, climate change and humanitarian crises, to name but a few. At ActionAid, we know first-hand that it is women and girls are more likely to be economically disadvantaged, displaced by climate disasters or experience violence. It is also them who are at the sharp end of political decisions made in both the UK and the EU.
In recent years, parties with far-right policies have steadily gained support, across the world, including in the EU and the UK. This political trend coincides with unabated attacks on human rights and civil society; and manifests itself most visibly in the concerted effort to rollback women’s hard-won rights – from US policies curtailing safe abortion access for the world’s most marginalised women to the murder of prominent women’s human rights defenders. These trends do not happen in a void. They are linked and are in part responses to deeply rooted inequalities and an economic system that has incrementally widened the gap between the richest and the poorest to the detriment of the majority of people in both rich and poor countries.
As a member of the EU, the UK has played an active role in shaping EU development policy. We are concerned that leaving will impact the international response to some of the world’s most extraordinary challenges.The UK must continue to work alongside the EU and other nations to ensure that world’s poorest and most marginalised people – almost always women and girls, benefit from international policy and aid.
Trading partners will be key to the UK into the future, currently all trading agreements to the UK are negotiated through the EU. While the UK government aims to replicate the majority of these agreements in the interim, there is scope to improve the development impact of trade policy — including in advancing women’s rights by ensuring that our new trade deals do not result in the world’s poorest women losing livelihoods, and being forced into low-paid, dangerous, or exploitative work.
Regardless of outcome of Brexit negotiations, we believe a Global Britain means standing by universal values that protect the climate, advance human rights, and tackle injustice and inequality, both in trade and development policy. And we need MEPs to stand firm on these issues so we can build a more just and equal world.
MEPs can directly influence responses to these challenge, but to do so they must be ready to:
1. Defend and advance human rights, including women’s rights, and tackle racism, inequality and the rise of the far-right;
2. Promote international development cooperation to address pressing global challenges;
3. Reform trade policy to better deliver on women’s rights and wider development principles.