How do we secure a progressive Brexit and protect Labour’s hard-won EU victories?

Labour MEPs, MPs and trade unionists discussed how Labour can achieve the best deal for Britain in the Brexit negotiations, at the EPLP fringe event on “Securing a Progressive Brexit” at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.

Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s Leader in the European Parliament, said:

“There is no plan from the government. It would be nice to know what the deal is. Brexit means Brexit – but what does this mean?

“A lot of the things we take for granted are at risk. When Boris Johnson talks about a bonfire of regulations, he’s talking about the Pregnant Workers Directive, the Agency Workers Directive, the Working Time Directive, which all underpin vital workplace rights. It threatens jobs, lowers standards, and threatens our NHS.

“We have to have a strategy now. It cannot wait. We have to know exactly what we want out of any deal. The trade unions and the party need to get their act together now. We need to talk about strategy now. We have to be on the front foot. We have to be serious as a party to safeguard rights. The sooner we take on people on the right, and take on Ukip, the better.”

Tim Roache, General Secretary of the GMB, said:

“There are many different ways we can move forward. We need to deal with the nature of Brexit. Our members work in warehouses, in manufacturing, in the defence industry. We’re a general union, we represent a wide range of views and interests. We campaigned to stay in, but were not uncritical.

“More than three million jobs are dependent on trade with the European Union, and many of our rights are underpinned by EU law – but Tory MPs and donors want to cut them to ribbons.

“We need an ongoing and inclusive national debate. It’s a danger to wait and see. We need general, principled discussions, with unions representing workers involved in the EU negotiations. We must keep the economy moving. We need a change from austerity. Public services are under strain. You ask people why they voted for Brexit – it’s because they want more spending, not cuts.

“Cynical, greedy employers are exploiting migrant workers in a race to the bottom. There has been a worrying increase in hate crime. We need strong trade unions and a strong labour movement.”

Lisa Nandy MP, former shadow climate change secretary, said:

“In Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and David Davis we’ve had three ministers, taking three differnt positions, all three of them slapped down by Theresa May. But what does May mean when she says “Brexit means Brexit”? The government has absolutely no clue what comes next. The prime minister should come before the House of Commons and set out their guiding principles.

“We need to work together with trade unions, councillors and MEPs. Any Brexit deal must work for the many and not the few. Any deal must bring people closer to the levers of power. There is anxiety, people felt they had too little control. We need real devolution.

“We need to give people a real say. We must look at the impact on communities and families. We should not be rushing into triggering Article 50. Parliament must be able to have a say on the terms of the deal. People must have a say.”

Antonia Bance, head of campaigns and communications at the TUC, said:

“We need to harness the energy of the campaign. It’s about time the labour movement and trade union movement come together. Our priorities are to make sure working people don’t pay the price of Brexit.

“We need to focus on jobs, rights and investment. People value rights and want to retain them. Labour and the trade unions must advocate the retention of rights. We need equal pay and equal rights – we cannot let Brexit Britain become a cheap labour, offshore island on the fringes of Europe.

“At the TUC, our priority is staying in the Single Market. Whether it’s a tariff of 10% or 1% if we leave, it will be significant. Thousands of jobs will be killed with tariff barriers. We need to get the best Brexit. The policy vacuum from government is disgraceful.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016