Unite chief calls for general election in the event of a bad Brexit deal for workers

TUC congress delegates have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a Unite motion to mobilise against a “cliff edge” Brexit and for a general election in the event of a deal that does not protect workers’ rights and jobs.

Moving composite two in the Brexit debate today (September 10), Unite general secretary Len McCluskey accused Theresa May of trying to “split the difference between common sense and economic madness”.

McCluskey said, “She has been held hostage by a coalition of imperial nostalgics and free market fanatics whose vision is of a British society of the 1950s allied to the economic dogma of the 1850s. This would be all very funny if we were not being marched to the cliff edge, while, like Nero, the cabinet fiddles.”

McCluskey contrasted the need to protect UK jobs and workers’ rights with the Tory government’s prioritisation of internal party politics over the national interest.

He told delegates: “Our priorities are different, as this composite makes clear. We insist on a Brexit that keeps and indeed builds on those workers’ rights that come from the EU. Secures barrier-free trade with Europe, which is the only guarantee of millions of jobs.

“And one that protects both EU citizens here and British citizens living and working in the EU, while securing a customs union with the EU after we leave, as Labour has demanded.”

McCluskey warned that a “no deal” Brexit is looming large and that Theresa May’s proposals for Britain’s future relationship with the EU is on “life support”.

Slam the brakes on

The Unite leader said parliament must “slam the brakes on” if the Tories continue to push the country closer to a devastating no deal exit from the EU and force a general election.

He explained: “The vote we will need above all is a general election that can deliver a Labour government which will not only conduct honest and friendly talks with the EU, but will tackle the underlying economic and social problems that led so many to give the establishment a well-deserved kicking two years ago.”

McCluskey added that the option for a “people’s vote” on the final deal must also be left on the table “if for no other reason than as a safety net if Tory MPs become spineless and don’t have the courage of their own convictions to oppose what the Prime Minister brings back”.

Unite assistant general secretary and TUC executive council spokesperson on Europe Steve Turner also addressed delegates, speaking in favour of the council’s statement on Brexit, which was carried with an overwhelming majority.

‘Heal the wounds of Brexit’

Turner said the trade union movement is uniquely placed to heal the wounds of Brexit and called on unions to “rise like lions to challenge the threat of a hard-right Tory attack on working people” and “bosses who seek to use Brexit to shed jobs, offshore jobs and put a match to hard won terms and conditions, protections and rights.”

He added: “Congress we live in a divided Britain, however we voted – and it’s our job, our duty in the absence of government … to step up, organise for change and deliver the programme necessary to heal the wounds and secure the best possible future for working people, our families and communities outside the EU.”