Unite: PM’s Brexit plans would be a “gross betrayal” of UK manufacturing workers

The government is heading towards a “gross betrayal” of UK manufacturing workers under Theresa May’s Brexit plans, Unite has said.

The intervention came after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he “strongly opposes” the Prime Minister’s Chequers deal and warned that EU car manufacturers will have to buy less British components after the UK leaves the bloc.

In comments that will increase worries about the government’s shambolic handling of Brexit, Barnier told a German newspaper that he “strongly opposes” Theresa May’s “common rulebook” proposal on Britain’s future customs relationship with the EU.

Barnier warned European manufacturers that barrier-free trade between the UK and the continent would come to an end under the Tories’ Brexit redlines.

He also advised EU automotive firms that using British parts could increase tariffs when exporting to other parts of the world.

Barnier said: “In order for EU carmakers to benefit from the tariff benefits of the EU-Korea agreement, only a certain proportion of the services may be provided in a car in a third country. Businesses have to be careful not to use too many parts of Britain in their vehicles in the future.”

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said that although Unite has warned about the damage Tory proposals could do Barnier’s comments were “disturbing nonetheless”.

“From almost the time it was mooted Theresa May’s Chequers deal was going to be dead in the water. It is a fudge that was intended as a balm to a warring Conservative party, rather than the serious roadmap to delivering a workable Brexit – one that will not destroy livelihoods – that it should have been,” Burke said.

“Unite has raised the alarm about the effects a Tory Brexit could have on our membership – particularly on those in the automotive, aerospace, science, engineering and steel sectors; who are especially vulnerable to Brexit-related disruptions to the supply chain, EU wide regulatory agencies and projects such as Galileo – but Michel Barnier’s comments are disturbing nonetheless.”

Burke added: “The Tories have no industrial strategy, they are in chaos over Brexit and we will be heading towards a gross betrayal of our manufacturing workers if the government deliberately damages world beating sectors of our economy because of intransigence and mismanagement.

“If Theresa May is unable to deliver an EU exit that provides frictionless trade with our largest trading partners, then she should call a general election and let the public decide if they want a Labour government that will.”