PM’s Florence speech: Brexit ‘creative thinking’ is far from the urgent certainty workers need

Unite described Theresa May’s speech in Florence on Brexit today (September 22) as a “missed opportunity” to allay working people’s fears over jobs and living standards, saying her call for “creative thinking” does not offer the certainty needed to avoid a damaging exit.

The union also criticised May for ruling out existing trade deals with the EU as future models for Britain’s relationship with the bloc, as well as her lack of clarity over what any new trade arrangement might look like.

Unite leader Len McCluskey said: “Fifteen months on from the Brexit vote, the best that prime minister Theresa May can offer is an appeal for ‘creative thinking’ on the terms of our exit from the world’s biggest trading bloc.

“This certainly won’t settle any nerves in workplaces across the country.

“By ruling out existing trade deals with the EU as models, but yet failing to say anything of substance about what our new trading arrangements will be, and throwing doubt on the length of the transition period where current rules will still apply, it is clear that the government is no further forward in terms of its plan for our exit than this time yesterday.

“This is extremely concerning. As manufacturers have signalled recently, investment decisions – and therefore thousands of jobs – depend on certainty about our trading arrangements and, indeed, the retention of the movement of goods and services across the EU in a friction free manner.

“Much hyped, this speech was meant to unlock the trade talks and help make the progress we urgently need in order to be in a position to put a deal to the EU by this time next year.

“It was an opportunity to tell working people that their jobs and living standards would be protected, now and into the future. This was an opportunity missed.

“Perhaps the only relief from today was that the government has accepted that it cannot crash the country out of the EU but must provide an orderly transition. We are still none the wiser as to what our jobs, rights and trading arrangements will be on the other side of transition, however.

“It seems the Tory party is simply too riven with in-fighting and fractured over Europe to offer leadership at this most decisive time in our nation’s recent history. We need a government that puts the national not narrow sectional, party interest first.”