“We’re better off remaining in the single market,” says the TUC

EUUnions today are saying the UK would be better off remaining in the single market.

The TUC’s General Council has released a statement saying:

As we enter negotiations for a long-term settlement outside the EU, we believe in keeping all options on the table and ruling nothing out.

Any deal must be realistic and achievable through positive, constructive but tough negotiations with the EU. Our objectives for that long-term deal will continue to be:

  • maintaining workers’ existing rights and establishing a level playing field so that British workers’ rights do not fall behind those of other European workers,
  • preserving tariff-free, barrier-free, frictionless trade with the rest of Europe to protect jobs, and
  • ensuring that trade and livelihoods in Gibraltar and Ireland are protected.

We are willing to consider any proposals that would meet those tests, including negotiating a new single market relationship, or working up from a bespoke trade deal. At present we should not rule out unrestricted access to the single market through continued membership outside the EU as this meets our tests. Several other countries are outside the EU but inside the single market and if the outcome of negotiations with the EU was for the UK to stay in the single market in the longer-term, the TUC would continue to push, especially through the ETUC, for reforms so that the single market better serves working people’s needs.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady will say that long-term single market membership is the best option for working people, adding: ““My challenge all political parties is this: When it comes to Brexit, don’t box yourselves in. Don’t rule anything out. Keep all options on the table. And put jobs, rights and livelihoods first. We have set out our tests for the Brexit deal working people need. Staying in the single market and customs union would deliver it.”

She will attack Theresa May’s handling of Brexit negotiations, saying: “The Prime Minister’s top priority should be to defend Britain’s best interests. Not stop the Conservative Party falling apart. “The clock is ticking and the government still hasn’t come up with a proper plan.

“The Prime Minister is sticking to the same old script that she can get whatever she wants. That we can all have all the same benefits of the single market without playing by the rules. “This isn’t a grown-up negotiating position. It’s a letter to Santa.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey yesterday condemned the Tories’ failure to put the national interest beyond internal party feuding, saying: “This is a divided, reckless government, without plan or purpose beyond its own survival and is driving Britain and many of our key industries straight towards the precipice placing tens of thousands of jobs in jeopardy.

“And here’s the real problem, colleagues, much of the Tory party just doesn’t care. It’s all collateral damage as far as they’re concerned, on the highway to their low-wage, low-tax utopia, a second Singapore floating off Europe, undercutting wages and social protections.”

McCluskey warned country “cannot afford a Tory Brexit”, saying “only unremitting pressure from the labour movement is going to avert this catastrophe.”

Reminding delegates that Theresa May’s promises to protect workers’ rights through the EU withdrawal bill have a familiar and hollow ring, he said: : “Theresa May says it’s not her intention to do that but calling an early general election wasn’t her intention either – until it suited. She regrets that decision now, and let me make it clear – if she uses Brexit as a pretext to attack workers’ rights, she will live to regret that too.”

He also restated Unite’s full support of the Labour party position of a transition period, saying that it is vital that: “The UK avoids crashing out of the EU without a plan, by remaining within the single market for a short additional period. We also support Labour in opposing the Tories’ EU withdrawal bill, which will give ministers powers to scrap workers’ rights as and when the fancy takes them.”

But not all unions agreed with the TUC’s position, with RMT general secretary Mick Cash saying: “The RMT campaigned for a Leave vote and there should be no suggestion that there is some back door route by which Britain can remain in the EU despite a democratic de‎cision in a national vote. It should not be forgotten that the leave position was supported by a clear majority of working people.

“As far as RMT is concerned membership of the single market is membership of the EU and would mean the retention of key anti-worker  policies like rail privatisation and social dumping . We would be kept under the iron grip of the unelected Brussels bureaucracy with control remaining out of our hands.

“RMT is opposing the TUC General Council statement for the simple reason that key sections are at odds with this union’s long-standing European policies.”.

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