(13 March 2019) The British Parliament overwhelmingly voted against May’s deal 12 March. That deal would have seen the UK leave the EU. Crashing out of the EU on 29 March now looms. Public service workers have warned that the UK is unprepared for such a scenario. Workers, families, and communities in the UK, Ireland and the EU will be caught up in the foreseen negative economic and social consequences. The UK and Irish unions, EPSU and the European trade unions have made clear that any deal must protect the rights of workers and citizens, protect jobs and not turn the UK in a country which is a tax haven, has low wages and poor regulation. It should also leave the Good Friday agreement of 1998 intact which resolved the violence and devolved powers to the people in Northern Ireland.
EPSU General Secretary comments: There is a lot that needs to change in the European Union and putting social rights over economic freedoms is a first. Breaking up and leaving the EU to have more competition is not the way forward. The whole Brexit discussion has made clear that the Eurosceptics and far-right offer empty slogans. These do not help workers and our families forward as the focus is not on addressing growing inequalities nor on giving workers a stronger voice in our work places and society. He adds: “It is time to give people in the UK a say on what is on offer through elections or another way. And maybe, just maybe working with others for progressive policies and better workers’ rights in the EU is an option that is more tempting than the mess created by false campaign promises."
The coming days will see further votes in the UK. If the outcome is that the UK will not leave on the 29 March, the deadline imposed by the conservative government, an extension will be needed. In all scenarios workers and their unions will need to be involved in a much better way as has happened so far to shape the direction of the UK and the future relation with the EU. And with all the focus on Brexit, the UK government is not addressing the economic slowdown or the huge social care crisis made worse by Brexit and understaffing it can cause.
The European Parliament elections of 23-26 May will be an occasion for all of us to engage with the direction we see for the European Union.