U.K. Women's Equality Party Calls for Second Brexit Referendum

(Bloomberg) -- Sophie Walker, leader of the U.K. Women’s Equality Party, urged her 45,000 members to back the campaign for a second referendum on Brexit, and said women’s needs had been ignored by a “small group of white men’’ on both sides of the debate.

Ahead of the party’s conference this week, Walker said she wants to “re-shape the people’s vote into something meaningful for women.” She pointed to a warning from the health department last month that Britain would face a 28,000 shortage in care staff for children and the elderly in five years if EU migrants are banned from entering after Brexit. That would force women to drop out of the labor market to care for family members, the department said.

“We are now being expected to step out of work just to prop up a no-deal or a bad deal,’’ Walker said in an interview Thursday. “There is something incredibly hopeful and exciting about the backlash to Brexit; there is now a real growing feeling that we don’t have to accept the referendum results on these terms.’’

New research published this week showed British voters are more skeptical than ever about leaving the European Union and would probably vote against doing so if given another chance. The GMB trade union, which donates funds to the main opposition Labour Party, also called this week for another referendum to let the public approve or reject the government’s final Brexit deal with the EU.

Walker argues that her party -- which holds no seats at Westminster -- can persuade mainstream political parties to adopt pro-women policies by campaigning and “being in the referendum space.’’ She said the idea seeks to emulate Nigel Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party, which campaigned doggedly over decades for Brexit.

“What got us into this Brexit state in the first place was that all the other parties were all so terrified of losing votes to UKIP, they contorted themselves to look and sound like UKIP,” Walker said. “So it got what it wanted without ever gaining Parliamentary seats or power.’

“We set ourselves up in that model to counter the damage,” Walker added. “They Brexit and we’re gonna fix it.’’

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