The NIRWN was delighted to have the opportunity to welcome Michel Barnier, EU Chief Negotiator for Brexit to NIRWN to share with him and his team the realities of the current and potential impacts of Brexit for rural women in our region.
The Commissioner listened intently to the representations of our delegation and was very frank and honest in his engagement with us. He assured those present that ‘’each citizen is necessary and must be respected’’ and we felt that his visit to us was clear evidence of this mindset. The EU has always placed value on civil society and the wider political picture where we must ‘build bridges’ and work together. This is an attitude our membership shares. Our recent research indicates that Brexit concerns of our members are not framed in local politics but the realities of their lives, how they live them and the legacy they leave for those who follow. The reality is that the UK are leaving the EU either with or without a Brexit Agreement and so the onus is on our citizens to advocate for themselves to ensure an Agreement is reached that best protects what we have built.’
We shared with Monsieur Barnier that the EU has always understood the importance of the role of women in their communities; peacebuilding, bridgebuilding and through the Rural Development Programme; Peace monies, ESF etc they invested in our rural women encouraging their development and leadership skills and we fear a future without this. Rural women currently receive only 1.3% of government funding for women’s programmes in NI.
NIRWN explained that the EU Withdrawal Bill has the potential to gravely impact on the hard won social, human and economic rights for women in NI. EU law has had a significant impact on the rights of women, especially in the areas of economic activity e.g. maternity rights; working time directive.
Mr Barnier in response to our concerns raised about a ‘hard border’ and associated infrastructure said: ‘I have to work for no border’, he was clear that the EU did not want a ‘hard’ border for people living their daily lives traversing the border region but that a ‘solution for goods needs to be found’.
The delegation shared with the Commissioner recent research from NIRWN and the Women’s Regional Consortium on Brexit.