BREXIT negotiations

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UNITE has recognised the narrow UK Referendum 2016 result in favour of BREXT (51.9% for 48.1% against). Although UNITE campaigned for a REMAIN vote, it recognises that many UNITE members voted for BREXIT

UNITE is appalled at the incompetence of the Tory Government in its handling of BREXIT negotiations which has caused dangerous delay and uncertainty for British jobs and the economy. Tory divisions over a “hard” or “soft” BREXIT have compounded the problem as have the outrageous and sometimes offensive public comments of leading Tory Ministers such as Boris Johnson and David Davies that questioned our national integrity and honour on the international stage. The fact that the Tory Cabinet had not even discussed and agreed what sort of BREXIT it was seeking by December 2017 is a national disgrace. We unreservedly support Jeremy Corbyn’s call on Theresa May to step aside and make way for a Labour Government that can negotiate with the EU.

Whether or not BREXIT talks succeed, UNITE calls for the UK Government to guarantee the following:
• a new charter of workers’ rights that includes the abolition of UK anti-union laws and ensures the current protections in law are not lost
• retain in UK law all the good EU legislation that protects workers rights, consumers’ rights and the environment and climate change obligations
• end austerity now – an investment programme through the National Investment Bank; job creation through social housing programme etc;
• a return to public ownership of privatised entities such as public transport, health services and education;
• an overhaul of the tax system including tax avoidance clampdown, corporation tax, personal tax and inheritance tax. “No to a Bankers’ ‘Brexit’”;
• a proper and secure Welfare State with a new benefits deal for all – no discrimination or scapegoating of any claimant; and end to sanctions; scrap the benefit cap
• investment in developing sustainable and renewable energy and new technology.
• prevent a race to the bottom in wages, taxes and regulations and completely reject the neo-liberal dream of a deregulated low tax minimum rights UK outside the EU

Conference urges the development of a fair immigration policy. This is a sensitive issue and the task will not be easy but Conference considers it is important for future election success. Such a policy should include:

i. the right to stay for the families of Europeans working in Britain;
ii. converging of the rights of European immigrants and those from previous and existing colonies with families in Britain;
iii. a hospitable approach to refugees in accordance with our full obligations under UN conventions
iv. progressive international policies, ending offensive wars and giving aid, both of which will help to reduce the world’s refugee problems, and
v. improving trade union rights, enforcing the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, sectoral collective bargaining and closing the demand for illegally cheap wages.
vi. negotiating maximum trading access to the EU Single market to protect our huge trading alliance with the EU and the many thousands of jobs that rely on it

Finally Conference notes that, 2 years on from the UK Referendum, many facts about the implications of BREXIT are much clearer than when people voted. It simply is not true that there will be £350M extra per week for the NHS as BREXITEERS claimed. Instead of savings, we now know there will be a substantial divorce bill of (estimated at the time of writing) around £40B which voters were not aware of at the time. Many of the lies about free movement of labour were deliberately exaggerated to play on racist fears. The potential damage to the UK economy from its departure from the single market and customs union was barely discussed during the Referendum and it is shocking that the UK Government has failed to carry out the impact assessments it had promised.

In the light of this, Conference notes that by December 2017 opinion polls have showed shifts in public opinion with less support for BREXIT and growing support for a second referendum on any eventual deal *. Conference calls on UNITE’s Executive Council to monitor the situation closely and, as the talks unfold and an eventual outcome of the BREXIT talks becomes clearer, take a considered view on whether to back a second referendum.

*“Would you support holding a referendum on any final deal?” A SURVATION poll of all voters in June 2017 showed 46% opposed to a second referendum and just 34% in favour. An identical poll in October 2017 showed 50% now in favour of a second referendum.