Theresa May’s Brexit statement today (9 October) provides little clarity on what Britain’s post-European Union future looks like, Unite has said.
The prime minister’s parliamentary speech failed to shed further light on what happens if the UK crashes out of the EU in March 2019 without a deal, what transitional periods will be put in place, and when, or exactly what progress has been made on key issues, such as the Irish border and customs arrangements.
Coming on the day that Ireland’s revenue commissioners, the country’s equivalent of HMRC, painted a bleak picture of the practicalities of a frictionless border, there was little in Mrs May’s words to allay those fears, despite talk of “broad agreements” and “joint principles” and the avoidance of physical infrastructure on the Irish border.
Nor did she explain how the UK’s economic infrastructure could continue to function in the event of a cliff-edge Brexit, even as the Port of Dover warned that any increase in the time it takes trucks to clear customs will lead to 17 mile queues on the M20.
And the size of the exit bill, either over a transitionary period or if the UK crashes out with a hard Brexit, remains unclear.
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said: “With the fifth round of Brexit negotiations underway in Brussels, Unite members don’t want to hear that the ball is in the EU’s court on how talks progress. At a time when increasing numbers of UK manufacturing jobs are under threat due to Brexit uncertainty, they need urgent and believable assurance that ministers’ are fighting to secure an EU exit that works for working people, their families and communities. Nothing I have heard from Theresa May today reassures me that is happening.
“Our members don’t care who has the ball. They care that continued membership of the single market and a customs union is the priority for our government’s negotiators, not to hear platitudes about a ‘unique relationships’ and a ‘deep and special partnership’ with no detail of how it will reassure employers and protect jobs.
“Theresa May said it was necessary to prepare for ‘every eventuality’. If that means that no deal is now a real possibility, we have to know what the cost of that will be. How much is the Treasury stockpiling for the event that we do crash out and what assurances will it give that this won’t be paid for by working people through endless more years of exhausting austerity?”