Rushed, irresponsible trade bill risks UK jobs and rights

Ministers’ indecent haste to publish the trade bill risks costing thousands of well-paid, high quality jobs and will ring alarm bells across UK workplaces, the country’s biggest union has warned today (07 November).

Unite the union called the rushed publication of the government proposals for the UK’s post-Brexit trading arrangements – less than 24 hours after the deadline for comments on the white paper closed – `utterly astonishing’.

Unite says the trade proposals are ill-considered and add to the mounting chaos and uncertainty accompanying the Conservative party’s handling of the Brexit process.  The union has pledged that it, and the wider labour movement, will expose the impact of the proposals on jobs, rights, living standards and the risk to our public services, just as it did with the controversial, and now abandoned, transatlantic trade partnership (TTIP).

Speaking on behalf of Unite, assistant general secretary for manufacturing Tony Burke said:  “This government is lurching between fresh crises and chaos of its own making but the irresponsible handling of the Brexit process must be stopped.  The jobs and rights of millions of UK citizens rest upon getting our trading and customs arrangements right.

 “These are among the most important decisions to face this country for generations so rushing out the government’s proposals only hours after the consultation closes is astonishing.

 “It suggests ministers had no intention of listening to the counsel of others on these basic issues.  Indeed the government is keener to please the US commerce secretary in the hope of cutting a deal than it is in protecting the rights and interests of the British people.

 “But there are fundamental questions that the Tory government must answer today about their bill.  Does this put UK workers’ rights at risk?  What job protections does it provide? Will it leave our NHS and public services vulnerable to predatory interventions from overseas and private sector interests?  Will it imperil our food safety and environmental safeguards? And will parliament be given the time needed to scrutinise proposals of such importance to our country?

 “The other pressing issue is what exactly is this government doing to remove the uncertainty it’s creating over our access to one of the world’s biggest trading communities?  Investment, pay and productivity are all stalling because business is losing confidence in the Tories’ handling of Brexit.

 “The government has got to reassure the British people that this is not a half-baked plan to rush into the arms of partners who will hold all the cards in the trading arrangements.  The labour movement has fought such race-to-the bottom trade deals before and won, and we will do so again.”