From the TUC

All to play for on #Brexit

18 Dec 2016, by in International

It’s not clear that the British public really cares that much yet about whether Britain should be seeking a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit, because the options haven’t been clearly set out, and the Government hasn’t yet set out what it favours. The TUC wants a proper public debate before Article 50 is triggered, with a national consensus on what sort of Brexit our negotiators should be seeking. This weekend, we’ve seen an opinion poll that suggests a ‘soft’ Brexit has more public support, and it doesn’t even seem as if there’s a consensus in the Cabinet. What this means is that there is all to play for in terms of what sort of Brexit we get – and that’s before we even begin negotiations with the rest of the EU!

Pollsters haven’t emerged well from the referendum, but that’s largely because of how complex the issues are. This weekend, released the results of an Opinium poll of 2,000 UK adults conducted last week, which showed minority support for a second referendum (even if, hypothetically, the economy turned downwards), but more support for a ‘soft’ Brexit than a ‘hard’ one (by 41% to 35% with a lot of undecideds and don’t care’s.)

The poll did not ask about ‘hard’ or ‘soft’, but described the options as fairly as possible – advocates of a ‘hard’ Brexit may complain that their option was described as raising unemployment and depriving the Treasury of the money for public spending, but then the ‘soft’ Brexit option did suggest the retention of free movement continuing acceptance of ECJ rulings, which have both been described as red lines by the Prime Minister.

What it does suggest is that the British public are still open to a wide variety of definitions of Brexit, and the TUC will be campaigning for a Brexit that means we not only keep our current workplace rights, but don’t fall behind when new rights are agreed, as well as tariff- and paperwork-free trade in goods and services with the rest of the EU.

This weekend also saw International Trade Secretary Liam Fox MP, one of the Government’s leading ‘hard’ Brexit advocates, admitted on the BBC’s Marr programme that the Cabinet had not yet decided whether to leave the Customs Union, which would be necessary for Britain to negotiate wholly different trade agreements with non-EU member states. That would leave Liam Fox pretty much without a job to do, but it’s clearly still an option, and there are a variety of options consistent with maintaining Customs Union membership.

With other Cabinet members still backing single market membership – at least for several years after the likely 2019 deadline for leaving the EU – it is clear that we are no nearer knowing what ‘Brexit means Brexit’ actually means for our rights, our jobs and our country. The TUC will continue to argue that what’s good for British workers is good for Britain.

One Response to All to play for on #Brexit

  1. endorendil
    Dec 19th 2016, 8:35 am

    “tariff- and paperwork-free trade in goods and services”

    It is unrealistic to have both tariff-free trade and paperwork-free trade without being a member of the EU.

    The UK can be in an EEA-like status (Norway), where it can trade almost anything without tariffs (although not without quota, as Norway is limited by quota on its fish exports) in almost everything. But then it has to provide proof of origin paperwork, which adds between 5 and 15% to the cost of Norwegian products (by their estimate).

    To avoid that paperwork the UK would also have to join the Customs Union. But that would mean the UK would be in a much worse trading position with the rest of the world. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland all have had many years to consider doing this, and they all have decided it would not be worth it. It simply does not make sense.

    So the option you seek is non-existent. Please put your efforts into a realistic one, so we won’t spend years chasing a dream.