UNISON branch consultation on the EU referendum

Over the next few months there will be an increased focus on the EU referendum on 23 June 2016. UNISON wants to ensure that members’ voices are heard in this important debate.

We are setting up a branch consultation to ensure that members’ views inform the union’s position. The information collected from the consultation will be used to assist the National Executive Council in taking any policy and campaign decisions, including possible National Delegate Conference emergency motions, on the EU referendum in the run up to the referendum date.

We’re keen for as many members as possible to make their voices heard. Your branch will be in touch with you about the consultation, but please do contact your branch secretary for information on how your branch is conducting its consultation.

Please note, the branch consultation will close on 5 April 2016.


What is the EU referendum and who can vote?

The EU referendum will allow everyone of voting age in the UK to vote on whether the UK should leave or stay in the European Union. The referendum will be held on Thursday 23 June 2016.

Those eligible to vote include British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK, along with UK nationals who have lived overseas for less than 15 years. Citizens from EU countries will not get a vote – apart from Ireland, Malta and Cyprus. Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar will also be eligible.

What is the UNISON branch consultation on the EU referendum?

The UNISON branch consultation on the EU referendum is an opportunity to give branches a say on what position, if any, UNISON should take on the referendum.

To help with the branch consultation UNISON has provided an Information for Members pack on the EU referendum. This will help members and branches understand more clearly what the issues and implications are when debating whether the UK should stay in or leave the EU and the impact of any decision on UK workers and trade unionists.

How do members take part in the consultation?

At the end of the Information for Members pack are the 5 questions that branches and members are being asked to consider and respond to. Every member now has an opportunity to contribute their views on these questions and take part in their branch consultation. Your branch will be in contact with you to let you know how you can participate in your branch consultation. Each branch will return only one response on behalf of all their branch members after the branch consultation.

What is UNISON’s position on the UK’s membership of the EU?

Neither UNISON’s National Executive Council or National Delegate Conference has a position on the EU referendum. UNISON has extensively debated the merits of the EU, a detailed account of which can be found in the Information for Members pack. In short, UNISON has historically been against the EU single currency and the role of the European Central Bank, but has been for a positive Social Europe.

What does UNISON think of the main Remain and Leave campaigns?

UNISON is not impressed with either campaign so far. The Remain campaign ignores some of the threats in the current EU to Social Europe, public services and workers’ rights. The Leave camp is concentrating only on issues of sovereignty, more rights for business and the City of London, migration, asylum and eligibility for state benefits that do not address the real challenges for the UK or working people face in relation to the EU referendum.

Further FAQs – including UNISON’s view on the EU reforms the government has agreed with the EU Council – can be found in the Information for Members pack


  • Are there any benefits from the EU on jobs and the UK economy?

    If we vote to leave the EU the Treasury has estimated the average loss to each household will be £4,300 a year. But the losses go further than just our own pockets. The poorest regions of the UK will lose access to the EU Structural Funds which created more than 50,000 jobs between 2007 and 2013. We will also lose access to other forms of funding, including the European Investment Bank which has funded important UK projects, including £350million for the construction of new social housing across the UK. Over three million jobs are currently linked to our membership of the EU.

    Read more Jobs and the UK economy

  • How are my rights are work affected by the EU?

    The EU regulates the majority of your rights at work, such as maternity leave and holiday pay, through EU legislation that the UK government then passes into law. These employment rights help UNISON to protect members at work and are enshrined in EU law and upheld by the European Court of Justice. Without the EU, workers would be vulnerable to each new government deciding what workers rights they want to give to or take away from working people.

    Read more: Your rights at work

  • How are public services affected by the EU, and what about TTIP?

    Our membership of the EU secures jobs, investment and growth that generate the money the government spends on public services like schools, hospitals and the police. More than half our trade (over £220billion a year) is with the countries of the EU. Leaving the EU could mean a risk of less money for public services.

    UNISON has been an outspoken critic of TTIP from the beginning, including its potential impact on the NHS. However, outside the EU the UK would simply face the prospect of even worse trade deals, with much less voice to influence them. In many ways the real danger in TTIP comes from the way our own government has chosen to approach it.

    Read more: The EU and public services

  • Were UNISON members consulted on the union’s position?

    UNISON members were invited to join a six-week consultation via their branches. Around 60,000 members took part. In the consultative survey, almost four in five (78%) of UNISON’s health, local government, education, energy and police branches wanted the union to take a stance in the EU referendum. Of these, the overwhelming majority (95%) wanted UNISON to campaign for the UK to stay in Europe.

  • What about TTIP?

    A lot of members have asked us ‘What about TTIP?’ – the EU/US trade deal that unions have been campaigning to change. Leaving the EU won’t protect us from TTIP. If the UK left the EU it would have to negotiate new trade agreements. Other European countries and the European Parliament want to protect public services. We know the Tories want more privatisation. Neither will the Conservatives be restrained by EU labour and environmental legislations, as they currently are. A UK-US trade agreement would be likely to be far worse even than TTIP. Find out more about UNISON’s TTIP campaign

  • Would leaving the EU increase spending on the NHS or protect it from privatisation?

    Every day we see how a weaker economy has led to cuts in public spending, with a severe impact on public services such as the NHS. The economic damage caused by Brexit would hit tax revenue, wiping out at a stroke any saving the UK made from not paying into EU budget. So there would be less money for the NHS, not more.

    UNISON has been an outspoken critic of TTIP from the beginning, including its potential impact on the NHS. However, outside the EU the UK would simply face the prospect of even worse trade deals, with much less voice to influence them. In many ways the real danger in TTIP comes from the way our own government has chosen to approach it.

    Read more: The NHS