MPs right to call for a Brexit that protects working people
The first report of the Brexit Select Committee, published this morning, is right to call on the government to set out its plans for Brexit, including membership of the single market and the Customs Union, among other things. The TUC believes that these issues are crucial to making the best for Britain, because working people’s jobs, living standards and rights at work depend on them. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said that
“The Select Committee has made clear the need for staying in the single market. But this isn’t only about avoiding tariffs and bureaucratic obstacles to trade in goods and services – the Government needs to make sure British workers don’t get left behind with worse rights than the rest of Europe.”
The report repeats Frances’ call for working people’s rights to be protected and continued compliance with EU employment protection (you can read more about our objectives here.) Its main recommendations fall into two areas: the process of developing the UK’s negotiating objectives and the key issues that those objectives should take into account.
Select Committee chair Hilary Benn MP urged that the government publish a White Paper setting out its negotiating objectives in time for Parliament to debate it, and called for a Parliamentary vote on the deal that the government eventually agrees. InFacts’ Hugo Dixon – who is like the TUC supporting a grassroots campaign, #WhatsThePlan, calling for the government to produce a detailed plan quickly – welcomed this, writing that
“A cross-party committee of MPs, including arch-Brexiter Michael Gove, is rightly insisting that parliament is involved at the beginning, middle and end of the Brexit process. The central thrust of its proposals is that parliament and the public must be fully involved in Britain’s most important peacetime negotiations.”
In terms of the content of the government’s negotiating objectives, the Select Committee is calling for avoiding tariffs and other “regulatory and bureaucratic impediments” to free trade, just as the TUC has. That would effectively require continued single market membership, and the Select Committee insists that the government needs to set out its intentions on that and continued membership of the Customs Union. And the Select Committee for Exiting the European Union, to give it its full name, also called for a transitional agreement should – as is almost inevitable – the two year timetable for Article 50 negotiations not produce a full agreement between the EU and UK in time.
Although it is normal practice for such reports to be agreed by consensus, and the Select Committee has a slim remainer majority, the Express, Mail and Sun all carry similar quotes from a handful of Conservative leaver members of the Committee opposing key elements of the report (although not in quite the lurid terms used in the headlines!) As usual, any expression of concern about the negative impact of Brexit, or any suggestion that Britain should be looking for safeguards against the impact on working people of the hardest of Brexits is treated by these newspapers as treachery.
The report also calls for other things that the TUC supports, such as:
- the rights of EU nationals in the UK and vice versa must be an ‘early priority’ in talks (although we’re campaigning with many others from across the political spectrum, and including business leaders, for a unilateral steps to guarantee the right to remain for EU citizens living and working in the UK, and with trade unions across Europe for the same rights for Brits abroad);
- border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic must be settled; and
- the civil service must be ‘properly resourced’ to deliver Brexit, as the FDA and other civil service unions demanded at Congress last September (and consistently since!)