Congress believes that more than two years on from the referendum, the Brexit process has now reached a critical juncture. How our movement responds to events in the months to come will be decisive.
Congress recognises that crashing out of the European Union would put at risk many of our hard- won rights at work, and that many thousands of good jobs rely on trade; is concerned that continued inept mishandling of the exit negotiations and bitter divisions on the government benches pose the very real risk of a disastrous no deal Brexit; and fears that if the UK ends up in this position, workers will be the ones who are hit hardest.
The warning from Airbus – which supports 110,000 jobs in the UK – against a hard Brexit which does not achieve either access to the single market or a customs union should be a wake-up call for anyone who believes the government can deliver a Brexit which protects, let alone enhances, workers’ interests. Congress is opposed to a no deal Brexit and to the creation of a hard border in Ireland and is deeply concerned that many worker and trade union rights will be under threat post Brexit. Our movement cannot countenance a cliff-edge Brexit. The economic and social shockwaves would echo the financial crisis of 2008, leaving no one in our movement untouched. No measure can be ruled out to avoid this outcome.
Congress strongly condemns the government for its inept handling of the Brexit process. Congress notes the lack of progress in Brexit negotiations, the government’s weakness which may lead to further concessions in negotiations with the EU and the division within the Tory government which led to the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson prior to the long overdue White Paper outlining the government’s vision for the UK’s future relations with the EU. Congress doesn’t believe that the current government is capable of delivering a Brexit deal that will work for ordinary people. It’s now clear that the Brexit originally promised is undeliverable and what we’ll get is likely to do damage to our economy.
Congress agrees that the trade union movement has a responsibility to unify all workers whether they voted leave or remain and the best way of achieving this is to directly link the fight for a new deal for workers in the UK with the TUC’s work on Brexit. Congress also agrees that we must continue to fight for reform of the EU to promote the interests of workers across Europe.
As set out in the General Council statement agreed at Congress last year, Congress continues to believe that in order to bring together workers, we must respect the referendum result and continue to call for a ‘jobs and rights first Brexit.’
Congress reaffirms calls for:
- the retention of all the hard-won workers’ rights that come from the EU, and making sure that UK workers get the same rights as workers in the EU into the future
- the rejection of a job-destroying “no deal” Brexit, with the priority being a final Brexit deal that offers tariff-free, barrier-free, frictionless trade with the rest of Europe
- the rights of EU citizens working in the UK, and those of UK workers elsewhere in the EU, to be guaranteed.
Any Brexit deal must enshrine and enhance working rights, social and environmental protections; maintain the Good Friday agreement and prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland; secure a customs union with the EU; and protect barrier free access to the single market.
Congress is encouraged to note that Labour’s position on Brexit includes a commitment to vote down any deal which doesn’t meet its six tests and also doesn’t deliver a post-Brexit customs union with the EU. If, despite itself, the government reaches a withdrawal deal that is put to Parliament before March, the prospects that it can meet the tests set by Congress or the Labour Party are remote. When this happens, our movement must be prepared, politically and industrially, to mobilise against it.
Congress calls on the General Council to mobilise our movement politically and industrially to prevent either a cliff-edge Brexit or if the government’s withdrawal deal fails to meet the TUC’s tests. Congress agrees that the TUC should campaign against any deal that does not meet these tests with the aim of forcing an early general election to secure a Labour government with a mandate for a Brexit deal that puts working people first. Congress believes a defeated deal would be tantamount to a confidence vote in the government, warranting an immediate general election.
Congress, recognising the real risk of a collapse in the talks, or a deal that does not deliver on the TUC’s priorities and, whilst respecting the outcome of the 2016 referendum, therefore calls for the option of a public vote to be kept on the table. Congress does not rule out the possibility of a campaign for people to have a final say on the final Brexit deal through a popular vote being held in order to make an informed decision on the deal on offer, break parliamentary deadlock or overcome the Fixed Term Parliament Act.
Seconder: Communication Workers Union
Supporters: Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, Royal College of Midwives