Unite AGS Steve Turner readies TUC for Brexit battle: “We’re entering the fight of our lives”

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner as the Unite and General Council spokesperson on Europe, moved the General Council statement on Brexit – which preceded the debate. Here’s what he said to the conference – to rapturous applause:

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Brexit in five minutes, where do we start?

Well I know you’ll all cover the detail and the statement speaks for itself, so I’ll start by thanking all those across our movement, and those in the broader alliance in parliament, standing up right now to the pathological liar, sexist and racist squatting in Downing Street.

A man hellbent on ditching convension and rewriting the rules, even destroying his own party, in pursuit of his ideological drive to take us out of the EU on 31st October without a deal.

And we know why Johnson and the rest of his ‘eton mess’ wants to leave the EU.

To slash workers rights, undermine environmental standards and remove consumer protections.

To open up our NHS to big US corporations and, to transform the UK into a even lower-tax, free-market economy. A Singapore off the shores of the EU.

We also know that their gateway to this destructive fantasy is a no-deal Brexit.

So in the face of this our statement is clear – it doesn’t matter how you voted in 2016. Leave or remain, nobody voted for a no deal Brexit that will be a catastrophic disaster for working people.

And I want to challenge Johnson to come with me, anytime, to Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port, to Toyota or the Port of Dover, to any hospital or care home reliant on doctors, nurses, porters and cleaners from across the globe and tell them it’ll be alright on the night!

He won’t because it won’t and he knows it!

Comrades, three years on from the referendum we continue to live in a divided Britain, and it’s OUR JOB, OUR DUTY to step up, organise for change and deliver a Labour government in the coming election with the programme necessary to heal the wounds that divide us.

Three tests

The TUC set out three tests for any Brexit deal. These tests, endorsed by Congress in 2017 and 2018, still guide our policy:

  • To secure and maintain workers’ rights
  • To preserve tariff-free, frictionless trade in goods and services to protect jobs
  • To ensure that trade and livelihoods in Gibraltar and Ireland are protected, with no hard border, or new restrictions between Gibraltar and Spain.

Our statement reconfirms these principles and demands we rise like lions to the challenges for our class, to fight for the New Deal working people desperately need and to defeat the threat of an on-going hard-right attack on working people.

To defeat the vile narrative of hate and division spewed by racists at our migrant communities, and any threats from bosses who think they can use Brexit to shed jobs, relocate and off-shore our work or put a match to hard won terms and conditions, rights and protections.

Congress, last year I raised eyebrows quoting Johnson for his willingness to f**k business in his drive for power. Well a year on I’ve got a message for Johnson, f**k you!

F**k your ‘austerity’s over’, your racist, bullying, sexist attacks on our communities, your proroging parliament, and f**k your no deal Brexit!

Comrades we won’t win the coming election in the letters page of the Guardian or an FT editorial. We need to get down and dirty, talking honestly to our people in their voices and with a passion we haven’t shown for far too long.

To win we need to inspire and motivate, give our reps, our members and friends the arguments and the confidence to take our message of hope and opportunity, of a new politics and fair economy into every workplace, onto every bus, down the pub, in our homes and across our communities.

Comrades we’re entering the fight of our lives, there are few niceities and fewer rules. The teamsheet is published and it’s game on!