Unite has said there is little in the proposals contained in the UK government’s position paper, published today, to reassure working people in Northern Ireland and the Republic who are concerned about their living standards, and called for “robust interventions” to cushion both economies.
In an initial response to the paper, Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said:
“The proposals published today offer at best a temporary band-aid for the consequences of the UK’s decision to leave the EU customs union – there is little here to reassure workers, businesses or potential investors on the island of Ireland.
“The Tory administration restates its intent to avoid a hard border, but their proposals to do that involve establishing an interim ‘shadow’ customs union with all the benefits of being both within and outside the union. Given that one of the key Brexit benefits claimed by the London government is the opportunity to pursue ‘free trade agreements’ with non-EU countries outside the current customs union, it is unclear how this would avoid the immediate need for a hard border to monitor the movement of such goods after March 2019. In attempting to have their cake and eat it, the Tory government is in danger of creating an ‘Alice in Brexitland’ scenario.
“The proposals published today will only prolong the uncertainty that is inhibiting investment and casting a shadow over the economies on both sides of the border. What is needed now is for confidence-building measures focused on jobs and living standards to be delivered in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to counter that uncertainty.
We need governments to focus on the day-to-day realities of people’s lives post-Brexit – whether that’s in London, Dublin or in Belfast. While we welcome the apparent commitment to continue the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland, now the rights of all citizens lawfully living in the UK must be guaranteed, as must the rights of tens of thousands of cross-border workers on the island of Ireland.”
Deputy Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock added:
“Workers are being asked to pay the price for the Tories’ Hard Brexit agenda. The reality is that tariffs and trade controls will be to the detriment of the economies of both parts of this island. Without government intervention, this will mean the threat of joblessness, wage deflation, and damage to the border economy and sectors such as agri-food which are highly vulnerable to the threat of import duties and tariffs.
“It is now up to politicians in Northern Ireland and the Republic to secure measures which increase confidence and cushion the impact of today’s proposals. These include raising the wage floor, tackling precarious employment practices, and extending collective bargaining rights as well as deepening sectoral collective bargaining structures. At the same time we need to raise the social wage in both jurisdictions, while also clamping down on tax avoidance and evasion.”