Unite manufacturing reps from up and down the country descended on Parliament today (July 24) to lobby MPs about the threat of a no deal Brexit.
Brandishing placards reading ‘No Deal, No Way’, the shop stewards from industries across manufacturing, including steel, aerospace and automotive among others stood united in their opposition against a no deal Brexit, which they said will decimate their jobs and communities.
Frank Duffy, a rep at GKN Automotive, told UniteLive that a no deal Brexit would have “a massive impact on the automotive industry”.
He explained how his firm supplies to all the major car manufacturers in the UK, including Nissan, JLR and others and that already the impact of Brexit uncertainty is hitting the industry hard.
“Honda have already decided they’re moving, Nissan have decided that they’re not building certain models in Sunderland and I feel that a no deal Brexit would have even more serious consequences for our industry,” Frank said.
Peter Tsouvallaris, a Unite shop steward for Toyota, agreed as he explained why being part of the EU with frictionless trade was so important for the company he works for.
“For us, we don’t have a warehouse. Our warehouses are the lorries that come in and continuously flow from the EU across the border into the UK,” he said, noting that this seamless movement of goods would be impossible if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Peter added he feared the devastation a no deal Brexit would wreak on his local community.
“This is why I’m angry with all that’s going on [with the threat of a no deal Brexit],” he told UniteLive. “I’m old enough to remember when manufacturing jobs were plentiful and what I do know from my experience that once these highly skilled, well-paid jobs jobs go, they never come back.”
Unite Airbus senior rep Tracey Blythe also said that she believed a no deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for those working in aerospace.
“My local community in Bristol and the surrounding area is built on the aerospace industry – my company sits alongside GKN, now Melrose; we sit alongside Rolls Royce and MBDA, and we have the Ministry of Defence which is just down the road.
“And it’s not just that. The supply chain in the south west is absolutely massive – 150,000 jobs rely on our aerospace industry in the region alone. At Airbus, we take on hundreds of apprentices every year, my husband works in Airbus, my son works in the engineering industry – my whole family’s life depends on it, and I’m not the only one in this situation.”
Unite convenor for British Steel Martin Foster highlighted his concerns over tariffs in the event of a no deal Brexit.
“Fifty per cent of our order books are with EU customers,” he explained. “If we have to pay tariffs on those orders that would kill the steel industry. There is a very serious risk that British Steel would go under if leave the EU without a deal.”
Martin said that most people don’t realise how vital steel is for the nation’s economy and infrastructure.
“People tend to underestimate the versatility and flexibility of steel. Everybody sees the big ships and the buildings that we live in but nobody notices the small things like the keys in your pocket, the watch on your wrist, your fridge and freezer. All these things have got steel in them and it supports an awful lot of industries, in particular the automotive industry.”
Foster added that if British Steel were to close, the impact would be devastating for the local community in Scunthorpe.
“We’ve all seen what’s happened in Redcar when [the steelworks] closed. The fear is if we don’t secure a buyer in the current liquidation process of British Steel, Scunthorpe will go the same way as Redcar. Scunthorpe isn’t quite the town it used to be and to lose the biggest private employer in the town would be absolutely devastating.”
Stop no deal
Labour MPs joined Unite reps outside Parliament to show their support in opposing a no deal Brexit, including shadow secretary for international trade Barry Gardiner (pictured above).
Gardiner lambasted the new prime minister Boris Johnson, who has previously said he would accept a no deal Brexit.
“He’s a man who says he’s quite comfortable taking this country out of Europe – our closest trading and security relationship with our closest neighbours – without any agreement in place,” he said. “That would be devastating for the lives of workers in this country whose jobs depend on a just in time supply chain, it’s devastating for our public services, and for the economy.”
Gardiner vowed that Labour would “do everything” to stop a no deal Brexit.
The Unite reps lobbied MPs later in the afternoon to press their case that a no deal Brexit must be taken off the table. The lobby comes just as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published a new industrial trends survey this week showing UK manufacturing output had declined at its fastest pace in a decade.
Nineteen per cent of manufacturers said output was up and 30 per cent said it was down, giving a deficit of 11 per cent – the lowest since July 2009 when Britain had just emerged from the deep recession that followed the financial crisis.
The measure of firms’ confidence about the general business situation was 32 per cent, the lowest since July 2016, just after the EU referendum.
‘Our jobs matter’
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said, “The latest CBI industrial trends figures underline what Unite representatives across UK manufacturing have been saying about the Brexit uncertainty gripping manufacturing and point to the devastation a no deal Brexit will do to the livelihoods of millions of workers who depend on UK manufacturing to pay the bills and put food on the table.”
He called on prime minister Boris Johnson to take a no deal Brexit off the table.
“He needs to listen to the message that Unite manufacturing reps, representing over half a million workers, delivered in Parliament today.”
“Our jobs and our communities matter, Boris Johnson must take no deal off the table and get a deal with the European Union that secures frictionless trade and tariff free access with Europe.”