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Brexit on Our Terms!

4th November 2016

Brexit on Our Terms!

By Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary of UNITE

THE BREXIT CRISIS will undoubtedly run and run. The Tories don’t have a clue how to handle the biggest ever peace time change in the UK – and amidst the political and legal wrangling, the voice of working people is straining to be heard. The referendum vote has to be accepted but that does not mean unions have to sit back and watch the decimation of UK jobs, industry and infrastructure.

That is why Unite launched a new document recently to make sure that the UK’s vitally important manufacturing sector is defended. Called Brexit On Our Terms, Unite consulted our shop stewards in manufacturing as well as the major employers’ organisations we deal with. We found there is considerable agreement on a number of key issues. These included:

• continued access to a tariff-free single market;
• no triggering of Article 50 until we see what exit from the EU will look like and what the alternatives are;
• the continuation and protection of employment rights gained through membership of the EU;
• a seat at the the table for trade unions to protect workers’ interests.

Also under discussion were the key issues of continuing infrastructure investment, access to skills and the development of an industrial strategy in a post-Brexit UK; re-shoring; procurement and the appalling attacks on foreign workers in recent months. The report also examines the alternatives to EU membership, in terms of trade, with a case study on a potential trade deal with Canada produced in consultation with our Workers Uniting partners in the United Steelworkers.

On trade deals the government is in a mess. Ministers claimed countries inside and outside the EU would be queuing up to do trade deals with us. So far there are few potential trade deals on offer – Australia, Mexico and South Korea. They have been completely wrong-footed twice by the US with a firm rejection of the UK getting any trade deal with them any time soon. Now we have ‘hard Brexit’ looming. Just how the government is going to handle these complex negotiations is highly questionable.

The future of UK manufacturing and decent jobs hangs in the balance. Unite will not stand by and allow jobs, pay and conditions to be attacked by employers claiming Brexit as an excuse.

This article first appeared in Labour Briefing.

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