TUC publishes five tests for triggering Article 50

By agency reporter
July 26, 2016

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is today (26 July 2016) publishing five tests which it is calling on the government to apply before triggering Article 50 to take the UK out of the European Union.

The TUC says these tests will make sure that working people do not pay the price for the vote to leave the EU, and will help get a fair Brexit settlement for everyone in the UK.

The five tests are:

1.  The government must have a clear action plan in place to protect jobs, industries and public services at risk from Brexit, and must guarantee all workers’ rights currently derived from the EU.

The principle danger facing the UK economy – and the people who work in it – is that Brexit will weaken economic demand. This could lead to a drop in wages, and perhaps even another recession. The Bank of England has warned that jobs and investment are already showing signs of being negatively impacted by the Brexit vote, and the most recent survey of business activity suggests the economy may be shrinking. Triggering Article 50 will be another flash point. But the government can protect against the danger with a plan in place to stimulate demand and lay the foundations for a more productive future economy. More details of what should be done are given in a national action plan, Working people must not pay the price for the vote to Leave, that the TUC has published, which includes investment in major infrastructure investment projects, a massive expansion on the house-building programme, and lifting the cap on public sector wages as part of a general strategy of raising pay.

We also need workers’ rights derived from the EU to be guaranteed. As well as protecting workers, it will aid our access to the Single Market in the final negotiated outcome if we commit to guaranteeing the same current and future employment rights as the EU nations we want free trade with.

2.  The government must have led a national debate on realistic options for post-Brexit arrangements with the rest of the EU and with non-EU countries, so as to build a national consensus on the mandate for negotiations.

The referendum only answered the question of what the UK does not want – continued membership of the EU. What we now want instead has yet to be answered. The Leave campaign had no plan for Brexit and are not united in their views on the alternative. To get the best deal for Britain, our negotiating team must be clear what they are aiming to achieve, and they must be confident that it is what British people want. And to safeguard jobs and investment, UK businesses must have a clear idea of what the aims are when negotiations commence, or they will be stuck in limbo for two years or more.

3.  There must be a cross-party negotiating team including the devolved administrations, the TUC, CBI and civil society.

The negotiating effort must be led by a broadly representative group that steers what the civil service negotiators do. It can not be left to the Cabinet, because the Conservative Party represents only a minority of the nation, and the Cabinet is formed of people who do not agree with each other on Brexit. An approach that is not politically inclusive, and balanced between the interests of business and labour, will result in a legacy of political strife and poor labour relations that would do great harm to the UK’s political stability and economic progress. Trade unions must have a significant role. Working people expressed their view in the referendum result that they wanted to take back control of their lives, their careers and their communities. This was especially strong in places where decent jobs and decent wages are in short supply. They need a voice in the negotiations to make sure that ‘left behind Britain’ is not left behind again in the Brexit settlement.

4.  Existing EU citizens living and working in the UK must be guaranteed the right to remain, and approaches made to secure reciprocal arrangements for British citizens living and working in the rest of the EU.

Hundreds of thousands of citizens of other EU member states have been living and working in the UK for years, if not decades. Many of them have raised families, and made a major contribution to the community and the exchequer over the time they have been in the UK, and they deserve more than being used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations. The TUC has agreed this with the CBI, and a whole host of both Leave and Remain politicians. As well as being the right thing to do for the people concerned (as well as vital for sectors like the NHS which depends on the 130,000 EU citizens working as doctors, nurses and in other roles), it will make it more likely that Britons abroad in the rest of the EU are granted the right to stay where they have made their homes.

5.  An all-Ireland agreement on economic and border issues must be in place.

The UK economy is more heavily intertwined with the Irish economy than any other country. The UK and Ireland have had a common travel area pre-dating both countries joining the EU (when it was the EEC) in 1973. But when the UK leaves the EU, Ireland will still be part of the EU’s freedom of movement area, so the arrangements that will be needed to distinguish between Irish citizens and EU citizens when it comes to travel between the two countries will be difficult. The only way to ensure that the UK’s Brexit negotiations do not cause incalculable harm to the peace process, to the UK-Ireland economy and to the people of the two countries, is to be clear in advance about the settlement that will be needed. That means a prior agreement must be made between the UK government, the Irish government and the Northern Ireland administration, covering the economy, migration, and the peace process.

The action plan to protect jobs and industry is the first priority, as the Bank of England has said that there are already signs of negative impacts following the vote. The TUC has published a report detailing the urgent steps that the government should take to stop Brexit leading to an economic downturn.

While economic action is the most urgent in terms of the immediate risks, the other tests are no less important. They will assure the British people that all parts of the UK and all parts of British society will have a say in arrangements for a post-EU future. They will reassure EU nationals who have made the UK their home. And they seek to protect the unique relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We welcome the opportunity to share our views with the new government. We hope that the TUC will have a central role in the coming years of Brexit negotiations and discussions, so we can protect the interests of working people and their families.

“Working people must not be made to pay the price of the vote to leave the European Union. If we rush headlong into Brexit without a water-tight plan for jobs and industry, the living standards of working people will suffer.

“How we plan for Brexit will affect people’s lives for many generations and for many governments to come. If Brexit negotiations serve only narrow or elite interests, it will cause deep national divisions and make Britain’s future far less stable and secure. There is no existing model for this – we need time for a national conversation to create a new ‘British model’ for a relationship with the EU and the world that is fair and balanced for everyone across the UK.”

* Read the action plan Working people must not pay the price for the vote to Leave here

* TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/


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