“Leaving the EU without a deal would be a catastrophe for public services and all those who work in them,” Dave Prentis declared in an email to Labour MPs today.
Writing ahead of today’s parliamentary votes on Brexit motions and amendments – plus the votes in March announced by the prime minister yesterday – the UNISON general secretary also reaffirmed that the union “cannot accept any undermining of the Belfast Agreement or peace in Northern Ireland”.
He urged MPs to back moves to extend the Article 50 withdrawal process “not to stop Brexit, and not to overturn the referendum – but to provide Parliament with an opportunity to seek the best possible deal for our country”.
MPs are discussing and voting on a number of Brexit motions and amendments today. Prime minister Theresa May has promised a “meaningful vote” on the withdrawal agreement – agreed in principle between the UK and EU, but overwhelmingly rejected by MPs in January – following further discussions between the government and EU on 12 March.
If it is rejected again, MPs have been promised a vote on whether they would accept a no-deal Brexit on 13 March. If that is rejected, they will be asked to vote on seeking an extension of the Article 50 period on 14 March.
Britain’s current two-year notice of leaving the EU under Article 50 means the country would cease to be a member on 29 March.
The full text of Mr Prentis’s email to Labour MPs reads:
Throughout this period of Brexit uncertainty, UNISON’s position has been clear – leaving the EU without a deal would be a catastrophe for public services and all those who work in them.
And we cannot accept any undermining of the Belfast Agreement, or peace in Northern Ireland. Both no deal Brexit and a hard Brexit fail these simple but crucial tests.
Of course, things are fast moving, but we remain consistent in our call for an extension to Article 50 – not to stop Brexit, and not to overturn the referendum – but to provide Parliament with an opportunity to seek the best possible deal for our country.
With only 32 days remaining until we exit the EU, there is a backlog of Brexit bills and Statutory Instruments to be debated and scrutinised – simply put, Parliament needs more time to avoid chaos, even in the event that a deal can be reached quickly.
On behalf of 1.3 million public service workers in your community and across the UK, I am asking you to vote to extend Article 50 and give public services a chance to avoid disaster.
General Secretary, UNISON