British and European unions pledge joint support for Brexit that protects UK and EU workers

European and British trade unions have pledged their joint support for a Brexit that protects both UK and EU workers.

At an international meeting hosted by Unite, the IndustriALL European trade union federation – which represents 7.1m working people from nearly 200 European trade unions – voted to lobby continental governments for a Brexit “that protects jobs, rights and a social Europe for all”.

As well as lobbying to maintain fruitful economic ties between the EU and Britain, IndustriALL Europe vowed to fight against attempts to turn the UK into a deregulated tax haven and condemned the rise of racism and xenophobia in both Britain and the EU.

Speaking at the IndustriALL Europe executive committee meeting in Central London today (June 7), Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “The British trade union movement needs the help and support of fellow trade unionists throughout the EU and we know from our discussions that IndustriALL affiliates and affiliates to other European trade union organisations, do understand and support us.”

“This year we have seen the right wing in the ascendancy, particularly in the UK and in the USA. However in Europe right wing extremists, some of whom would have been committed to leaving the European Union have thankfully been beaten back – but make no mistake they are still there lurking in the shadows waiting for their opportunity.”

IndustriALL Europe president Michael Vassiliadis also warned of the dangers right-wing popularism poses to EU workers. Vassiliadis said that after a number of crises and the imposition of neoliberal and austerity policies, EU member states were vulnerable to those offering easy answers.

He said: “The consequences of neoliberalism and austerity are nationalism and protectionism. It is the helplessness of those who have tried to explain society with radical market solutions who fall into protectionism, isolation and the attempt to nationalise social conflicts.”

Vassiliadis said European trade unions must be precise in the way they offer an alternative, one that supports the EU while focusing on the need for it to serve the interests of “solidarity, justice and hardworking people”.

Wolfgang Lemb, executive board member of IG Metall, the German metal workers’ union, said European trade unionists would also campaign for those things in the UK as part of the Brexit negotiations.

This means lobbying against crashing out of the EU with no deal, a scenario which the Conservatives would use to turn the UK into a deregulated tax haven. As well as being bad for British workers, a hard Brexit would damage European industries and potentially spark a race to the bottom on taxes, labour laws and regulations across the continent, Lemb explained.

He said: “A hard Brexit would be the worst thing that could happen for all workers – not just those in Britain but everywhere in Europe.”