Europe's unions defending social rights – workers and people first when dealing with Brexit

(13 January 2017) The result of the negotiations between the European Union and the UK will impact on people first and foremost. Workers, students, researchers, civil servants, families could be deprived of their freedom of movement, their rights and entitlements following Brexit, the exit of the UK from the European Union. To express the concerns of EPSU, a delegation met with EU negotiator and ex-EU-commissioner Mr. Barnier. He will lead the negotiations with the UK government for the European Commission and the European Council (EU member states). We made clear that we expect that access to the Single Market implies respect for the 4 freedoms and including the free movement of workers, and for the EU’s social acquis. Otherwise access to the EU’s single market will lead to social, environmental and possibly tax dumping. EPSU made a number of suggestions on how this can be prevented. The chief EU negotiator underlined that the interests of people and how Brexit impacts on them are central to this preoccupation. We discussed the situation of workers in Ireland and Northern Ireland, the right of workers to stay in the UK and in the EU, of EU civil servants, the need for transparency, impact assessment of the result of the negotiations, regular feedback to the Parliament and civil society amongst others. We exchanged with the ex-Commissioner on the reasons for Brexit. The neo-liberal policies of the previous European Commissions lead by Barroso, his cartel with Europe’s business interests and lack of social policies are one reason for growing displeasure with the EU according to EPSU. EPSU underlined our expectations of the EU pillar of social rights. To ensure that workers and people have confidence in the EU it needs to have a social vision and concretely demonstrate it improves Social Europe and assist in strengthening workers’ rights, social dialogue and collective bargaining, health and safety, equality and social protection for example.

For the EPSU Brexit statement adopted by the Executive Committee

EPSU delegation was composed of the EPSU President Isolde Kunkel-Weber, EPSU Vice-presidents Francoise Geng and Mette Nord, EPSU General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary and colleagues Tanja Buzek, Nick Crook, Kjartan Lund. The meeting took place on 12 January 2017 in Brussels.

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