UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis has written to the government’s new Brexit minister, David Davis, making the case for the union’s inclusion in the negotiations that will take the UK out of Europe.
Mr Prentis has requested a meeting with the newly-appointed secretary of state for exiting the European Union to set out UNISON’s views and learn more about the Brexit timetable and the government’s plans for consultation.
And he has made similar overtures to international trade secretary Liam Fox, with regards to the new trade deals that will be necessary after the UK’s departure.
For the UK to leave the EU it has to first invoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which then gives both sides two years to agree the terms of the split.
Prime minister Theresa May has said that she will not invoke the article before the end of this year. Aside from her new ministers, little is known of the government’s intentions.
In his letter to David Davis, Mr Prentis writes that the Brexit negotiations will have “long-term impacts” on public policy and public service provision in the UK.
The areas that will be affected include public procurement, the regulation of public sector employers, future funding of public services, workplace and employment rights, equalities, health and safety, environmental standards, trade deals, free labour movement and immigration.
For that reason, Mr Prentis says, it is of the “utmost importance” that the withdrawal negotiations with the EU be open to “full parliamentary and public scrutiny” and that the devolved nations, UK regions, business, trade unions and wider civil society should all be consulted on their content and kept regularly updated.
And as the UK’s largest public-service union, UNISON is seeking the “fullest opportunity to be included” to ensure ”the best possible outcomes” for the union’s members.
In his letter to the international trade secretary, Mr Prentis says that the same cross section of interests should be consulted on post-Brexit trade treaties, in part to avoid the mistakes of such EU-negotiated deals as TTIP and CETA.
He suggests that Brexit offers a chance “to create a new model for trade and investment agreements.”