Unite today (July 3) vowed to mobilise against the cliff-edge brought about by the Conservative government’s abysmal handling of the Brexit process.
In a statement passed overwhelmingly by Unite’s policy conference in Brighton, the union stressed that its priority is to push for a general election in order to deliver a Labour government, which would be more capable of and committed to securing the best possible future for working people.
Following a wide-ranging debate, delegates agreed the union needs the freedom to use a “flexible” and “adaptable” approach to win a workers first Brexit and prevent a devastating economic cliff-edge.
Leading the debate, Unite leader Len McCluskey said Brexit is turning into a “nightmare” that could hurt jobs and living standards because of the Tories disastrous handling of the negotiations.
He said: “The negotiations as to how and on what terms we leave the EU, and what the new basis of our relationship with our nearest neighbours and largest market will be, has been entirely overshadowed by negotiations to try to hold the Tory Party together. Theresa May has lost all authority. All capacity to make decisions. All power of initiative.
“She is held prisoner by the dogmatists and fantasists of the far right. These people see in Brexit the chance to turn Britain into the low-wage, deregulated, race-to-the-bottom society of their dreams. But Brexit is turning into a nightmare for the rest of us – a nightmare of uncertainty above all.”
McCluskey also emphasised that Unite is not calling for a second referendum re-running the 2016 vote, but is saying that voters must be allowed to pass their verdict on whatever agreement the UK government secures with the European Union.
The union’s call followed a detailed and full debate which highlighted members’ fears that the Tories’ in-fighting and destructive red lines will bring ruin to their jobs and communities.
McCluskey said: “Unite’s policy will be set here by our elected delegates and our elected executive council. As democrats we respect the vote to leave. It is however impossible to respect the way the government has conducted itself since.
“We are not, I repeat for my friends in the media, not, calling for a second referendum…..But we remain open to the possibility of a vote on any deal the Tories come back with. (Because) if we can be sure of anything it is that any deal cooked up by May, Johnson, Davis and Fox will not meet Labour’s red lines or the needs of the British economy. And the Tory red lines certainly won’t meet Unite’s requirements.”
Policy conference agreed that if the deal due to come to parliament in the autumn doesn’t satisfy Unite’s criteria the union will mobilise against the deal.
“Our priority will be to force an early general election of a Labour government which would among other things, reach a better deal with the European Union and improved relations with Europe all round,” the statement said.
Delegates to the conference – drawn from workplaces across the UK and Ireland – agreed a statement demanding that any Brexit deal must deliver barrier-free access to the Single Market, secure a customs union with the EU, protect and enhance workers’ rights, safeguard the Good Friday Agreement, ensure that there is no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and the north, and protect the integrity of Gibraltar.
McCluskey added: “Our movement needs to speak with a single voice in opposition to the Tory cliff-edge Brexit in support of jobs, workers’ rights and equality for all removing the concerns that many of our members have, and in also offering hope to those who backed Brexit out of despair.”