TUC conference delegates yesterday (September 10) endorsed a transition period to prevent the UK’s economy falling off a cliff edge after Brexit.
The position, which stated that the labour movement “respects the decision taken in the 2016 referendum that the UK should leave the EU”, called for the UK to remain in the single market for a period after the country leaves the EU next March.
It warned that the Tories’ approach to the negotiations with the EU “could lead to the UK facing a cliff-edge exit”.
The general council statement, moved by Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner, said the UK “must manage migration better by preventing exploitation and undercutting and by reversing cuts.”
The position was reached after debate in which differing views on the free movement of labour were aired.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt highlighted the many contributions made by foreign-born workers.
She said: “It is not immigrants who are destroying our NHS. Our Tory Brexit government is doing that all by itself.”
CWU general secretary Dave Ward warned against “defending the existing EU free movement system come what may”.
Unite’s Andrew Murray called for “comprehensive labour market regulation” to safeguard domestic and foreign workers.
RMT’s Eddie Dempsey spoke against remaining in the single market, saying it had made “private ownership of the economy permanent”.
TUC general secretary Francis O’Grady said the single market was not perfect, saying “we are not starry-eyed about the single market, and we reject the liberalisation (of the labour market), a charge often led by the UK government.”
However, she raised the possibility of the UK retaining single market membership whilst reforming aspects of the free movement of labour.
O’Grady said workers rights from the EU must be protected and warned of the dangers of taking the UK over a cliff once the two year negotiations have finished.
She said: “The clock is ticking towards what I can only call a kamikaze Brexit. Workers’ rights we won from the EU must be protected. We don’t want a race to the bottom.”