Working people already paid for the financial crises; they should not pay for Brexit

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2018 National Delegate Conference
26 February 2018

The Conservatives’ self-imposed Brexit deadline is fast approaching but they remain distracted by internal divisions and ideological entrenchment, which is in real danger of pushing the country towards a cliff edge. In February 2018, Cabinet ministers have lined up to produce a series of ‘major speeches’ on Brexit that has only succeeded in highlighting how much the last two years have been a vortex of in-decision, rhetoric, blue passports and chlorinated chicken.

Conferences notes that with no concrete plan on creating a stable economy or how our public services will be decently funded, the need for stability and reassurance for working people has never been greater.

The release of a wide-ranging assessment on the economic impact of Brexit has estimated that the north-east would lose 16% of regional economic growth if no deal is reached. This is a region with already high levels of unemployment, the only UK region to export more than it imports and where approximately 160,000 jobs are directly linked to membership of the single market. Given that this region has already been on the receiving end of some of the deepest public sector cuts in the country the stakes could not be higher.

If Brexit was driven by widespread disillusionment with an economic system that favoured the rich and powerful and reduced living standards, the reality is that the Tories’ strategy will only succeed in establishing a low-tax, low-regulation haven for unscrupulous businesses where competitiveness is driven by attacks on workers’ rights.

Though UNISON had backed Remain after a major cross union consultation exercise, Conference is not willing to indulge in a 2016 referendum post mortem but wants to face the future putting forward arguments that best defend public services and UNISON members’ jobs and employment conditions in all parts of the UK. Talks of a Canada-style CETA arrangement highlights real dangers.

Nobody voted for Brexit to be poorer and work longer hours in unsafe conditions. The trade union movement must therefore argue for a worker’s Brexit which emphasises the need for an economic investment strategy that delivers quality jobs and protects living standards and employment rights.

Already our NHS is experiencing a Brexit-induced drain of qualified European staff. It has recently been reported that almost 10,000 EU NHS workers have already left since the Brexit vote, and one in five of European NHS doctors have made plans to leave the UK. In addition, official figures have shown that the number of nurses from the EU registering to working the UK has dropped by 96%.

Conference therefore believes that public sector workers from Europe who came to the UK to work for our NHS, schools and social care, must be reassured they are welcome and can remain as part of any Brexit deal.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)Continue the lobbying on behalf of UNISON members in the Westminster Parliament, European Parliament and devolved administrations in line with the policy passed at the 2017 Conference;

2)Continue to campaign with the the3Million campaign group of EU citizens living in the UK and to promote the UNISON EU members group;

3)Set up a new programme of forward looking member and activist EU briefing materials that can assist the understanding of different types of UK- EU relationships and different types of trade agreements;

4)Assess the costs and benefits of different UK-EU future relationship agreements based on the UNISON EU exit objectives from 2017.