People and workers first say EPSU and its UK and Irish affiliates as UK Conservatives trigger article 50 to start Brexit negotiations

(29 March 2017) The UK has triggered Article 50 of the EU Treaty. Negotiations on Brexit will start.  EPSU and its UK and Irish affiliates calls on the EU and the UK to respond with:

  • An agreement that promotes jobs and sustainable growth, protects workers’ rights and people’s standards of living. This includes the right to remain for UK and EU citizens in the EU and UK respectively. We will campaign against a Brexit that brings lower pay and conditions for UK workers, builds walls between UK, Irish and other EU workers, undermines funding for public services by turning the UK in a low tax country that throws out hard-won UK  workers’ rights, such as the working time rules, health and safety protection and equality rules.
  • European workers and people do not need a race to the bottom under the banner of competitiveness. That project is one in which corporations will seek corporate welfare through state aid, tax breaks and more. We will keep fighting for upward social protection, better workers’ rights, which safeguard our environment,  consumer safety and transparency.
  • Dealing with the negative consequences of Brexit for our jobs and communities.

Dave Prentis, EPSU vice-president, General Secretary of Unison and host of the meeting of UK and Irish public service unions said: "UK public service unions in EPSU campaigned for a positive vote. No concrete plans were on the table what a Brexit would mean for workers, public services and the UK people. That is still the case. Our public services depend on workers from the UK and EU countries. They and UK people need a forward looking social and economic agreement. With our Irish and European colleagues we will campaign for this".

Shay Cody, General Secretary of Impact, Ireland stated: "People in the North and the South are concerned about the outcome of these negotiations. The UK Brexiters are not concerned about the impact of their policies on others, just like the extreme-right nationalists in many EU countries. We embrace the European values of democracy, cooperation and solidarity. We reject the xenophobia, racism and pitching people of different nations against each other".

Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU General Secretary stressed: "The guarantee to the right to remain should be an immediate start of the negotiations. The EU and UK negotiators should come clean and end the uncertainty for millions of workers, students, researchers, pensioners and other people".

The EPSU unions in the UK and Ireland extensively discussed the specific situation of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Our point of view is that we do not need an agreement that brings about new borders and that undermines the Good Friday Agreement.

We want:

  • Full transparency of the negotiations. Workers and people in the UK and EU deserve to know what they stand to lose or gain from the negotiations.
  • Involvement of the UK unions in the UK , and the EU unions in the EU negotiations respectively.
  • Impact assessments to accompany the negotiations. We are particularly concerned that the results might impact on employment, gender and income equality, public services and workers’ rights.

EPSU vice-president Dave Prentis and the EPSU General Secretary met with the Irish and UK trade unions 27 March 2017 in London.

Other issues on the agenda included preparation for the next EPSU Executive Committee (6-7 April), the next PSI Board (20-21 April) and the PSI Congress (31/10-3/11).

An  ETUC statement on Brexit can be found here

EPSU adopted a position on Brexit in November 2016

See also our article of 28 March 2017 here