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Britian’s Biggest Union, UNITE, on Brexit, “open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal.”

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Image result for unite union conference brighton 2018

UNITE on Brexit, ” open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal….”

The Guardian reports,

Britain’s biggest union has left the door open to another referendum on the government’s Brexit deal.

Unite, Labour’s most generous donor, also said it was highly unlikely that Labour would vote for Theresa May’s deal on leaving the European Union.

The development is being interpreted by some observers as an incremental move towards accepting a second referendum, and could increase pressure upon Jeremy Corbyn to do the same.

It also makes it clearer than previous statements that Labour may well vote against the EU withdrawal agreement. Earlier this year, senior frontbench figures including the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, were arguing that it was likely that Labour would vote in favour of the deal.

In a statement issued at the union’s annual conference in Brighton, the executive said: “It remains highly unlikely that the final EU-UK Brexit deal due to come to parliament in the autumn 2018 will satisfy the criteria that Unite and the wider labour movement, including the Labour frontbench with its six tests which must be met, have set.

“At such a moment, Unite will mobilise against the deal. Our priority will be to force an early general election which can lead to the election of a Labour government which would, among other things, reach a better deal with the EU and improved relations with Europe all round. We are also open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal, depending on political circumstances.

It is understood that Corbyn’s office insist they are relaxed about Unite’s policy development.

By contrast the pro-Brexit Morning Star, with links to the hard-right Arron Banks Funded Trades Unionists Against the EU (such as its chair, Doug Nichollsgave this report,

 

UNITE threw its might behind Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today, vowing to get him into No 10 as the union said No to a second referendum on Brexit.

Speaking at the union’s biennial policy conference in Brighton, general secretary Len McCluskey took aim at the media misrepresentation of the union’s position on a second referendum, telling delegates: “Let me be clear – we are not calling for a second referendum.

“Our decisions are made by our conference, not by any unrepresentative opinion polls commissioned by God knows who.”

His attack was aimed at a poll briefed to the press last week by anti-Brexit organisation Open Britain, which claimed that a majority of Unite members do not trust Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit and desire a second referendum.

The union’s executive statement condemned the government’s “abysmal” handling of Brexit negotiations and advocated Britain’s “barrier-free” access to the single market as well as securing a customs union with the EU.

As it remained “highly unlikely” that the final Brexit deal negotiated by the Tories will satisfy Unite members, the union’s priority will be to “force an early general election which can lead to the election of a Labour government” which could “reach a better deal with the European Union” and improve British-European relations.

Mr McCluskey warned of the dangers of a no-deal “cliff-edge” Brexit and said that the British people voted to leave the European Union, not for increased unemployment or the erosion of social rights.

People voted leave, said Mr McCluskey, because they “wanted control over political decisions to be returned to our elected politicians in Westminster” and “as democrats we respect that vote.”

Mr McCluskey condemned the “shadow of job losses” hanging over the heads of Unite members and criticised Prime Minister Theresa May’s “nightmare of uncertainty” in her Tory Brexit plan.

“Theresa May has lost all authority, she has lost all capacity to make decisions, or all power of initiative,” he said.

“She is being held prisoner by the dogmatists and fantasists of the far right.

“These people see in Brexit the chance to turn Britain into the low-wage, deregulated, race-to-the-bottom society of their dreams.”

Reiterating Mr Corbyn’s calls for Britain to stay in a customs union and access to, rather than membership of, the single market, Mr McCluskey said that “staying or leaving the EU matters less than getting Jeremy in office.”

Delegates engaged in debate over several hours about their attitude towards a Britain outside of the European Union.

This was the occasion for the Morning Star to give a voice to those who agreed with its pro-Brexit policies.

Nabila Ahmed, a Unite young member from Watford, expressed her concerns that a second referendum “would give a boost to the far right” and claimed that the “ultimate agenda” of “Europhiles” demanding a second referendum would be to “break Jeremy Corbyn.”

Damian Bailey, chair of Unite’s north-west young members’ committee, told conference that that “the most important thing for young members is not to re-enter the European Union, but electing a Corbyn government.”

He told delegates that “union members should not be grateful for the meagre rights the European Union gives us” and that “we should have unions fighting for us, like Unite.”

Mr Bailey warned delegates to ignore the fearmongering spread by employers, highlighting that “the same people who threaten to move our jobs abroad after Brexit are often the same people who would threaten to move our jobs abroad if a Labour government gets elected.”

But Mick Graham, convener of the Land Rover plant in Solihull, also reminded delegates that “we are internationalists, and we must reaffirm our commitment to solidarity across all borders.

“Defending our members and communities has to be our priority.”

Contrasting with the statement made by the Lexit leaning Morning Star Unite’s official statement says (as the Guardian notes),

 it remains highly unlikely that the final EU-UK Brexit deal due to come to parliament in the autumn 2018 will satisfy the criteria that Unite and the wider labour movement, including the Labour front bench with its six tests which must be met, have set.

At such a moment Unite will mobilise against the deal. Our priority will be to force an early general election which can lead to the election of a Labour government which would, among other things, reach a better deal with the European Union and improved relations with Europe all round. We are also open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal, depending on political circumstances. Within these principles, the Executive Council has authority to respond as it thinks best to a fast-changing political situation.

Unite policy conference 2018 – Executive statement on Brexit

UNITE’s criteria for an acceptable deal include the following,

  • deliver barrier-free access to the Single Market to ensure ongoing exchange of the goods and services which thousands of our members’ jobs rely on.
  • secure a customs union with the European Union
  • enshrine and enhance working rights, social and environmental protections which are currently based in EU law. These must be transferred into UK law through primary legislation, open and democratically.
  • not undermine the Good Friday Agreement or the economic integrity of the island of Ireland. There must be no hard border between the Republic and the north.
  • protect the integrity of Gibraltar and the right for Gibraltarians to determine their own future.
  • grant the immediate and guaranteed right to remain for European citizens in the UK and their dependents and secure the rights of UK citizens working in other EU countries.
  • retain membership of beneficial European-level institutions or regulatory bodies which are vital to our industrial sectors such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), ECHA (REACH) and Euratom.

And, ” it remains highly unlikely that the final EU-UK Brexit deal due to come to parliament in the autumn 2018 will satisfy the criteria that Unite and the wider labour movement, including the Labour front bench with its six tests which must be met, have set.  At such a moment Unite will mobilise against the deal”.

So in other words, Brexit is a disaster. UNITE policy is not that of Trade Unionists against the EU and all the other Lexiters’ who say, “Embrace Brexit and Shape the Future”.

Opening up to a possible challenge to the whole process of leaving the EU, and negotiating new world trade deals with the such as Donald Trump, is bound to be complex.

But as commentators have remarked, this statement reflects a ” a shift in tone” away from a pure and simple acceptance of Brexit as a fact.

As does the reminder that the union is not going down the path of a national go-it-alone ‘Lexit’ (left Exit).

As Unite says, “The global trade union movement must respond to these historic challenges by renewing our fundamental principle of internationalism, while offering working people a genuine route for taking control of their own lives, in the workplace and beyond.

Unite will always reject malign and reactionary right-wing nationalism. We will resist any attempts to divide us. Instead we must recommit ourselves to this eternal truth: we are internationalists or we are nothing.”

The immediate issue is how to best oppose the way Brexit is unfolding within the context of the need to elect a Labour Government.

Not at all the ringing rejection of a new Referendum that the Pro-Brexit Morning Star would wish.

 

 

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10 Responses

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  1. I’ve made the same point over at Shiraz: https://shirazsocialism.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/the-real-policy-passed-at-unite-conference-on-brexit-and-a-second-referendum/

    The serious bourgeois press (Graun, Times) has reported on Unite’s policy much more honestly and accurately than the M Star (which is, of course, largely funded by Unite!).

    Jim Denham

    July 4, 2018 at 3:29 pm

  2. You might as well give people on death row the vote on how they want to be executed! Actually that would make more sense.

    Given the talk on the migrant question in the EU and rumblings of internment camps, perhaps it is the right time to get out of the EU!

    Steven Johnston

    July 4, 2018 at 3:39 pm

  3. Obviously Jim you follow the Morning Star with the same awareness of its limpet like ability to cling to the trade unions in general and UNITE in particular.

    It is as you say on your post a disgrace that this twisted ‘report’ got published, not to mention the way they continue to publish the disgraced Trade Unions Against the EU.

    I note that Doug Nicolls (cited in the post above) has a good relationship with the Sovereigntist, Spiked-on-Line:

    Doug Nicholls, chair of Trade Unionists Against the EU, on the mythmaking of left-wing Remainers.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/the-eu-has-done-nothing-for-workers-rights/18464#.WzzuvzpKiM8

    He also hold these views, given prominence in the above on-line hard-right ‘contrarian’ journal,

    “But the biggest illusion of all is the ‘free movement of labour’, which in practice is enforced migration. It is a deliberate attempt to deplete the economies of the East and undermine social provision and community in the West. The European Court of Justice made it clear time and time again that the needs of transnational businesses — which included shifting production to the areas of least resistance and trade-union organisation — would trump national collective bargaining and workers’ protections.

    No nation has ever prospered by allowing its workforce to become nomads to suit the short-term needs of others. A central right of any worker is to be able to prosper and grow in the land of his or her birth and to have meaningful, gainful and enjoyable employment. ”

    http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/is-freedom-of-movement-anti-working-class/20195#.WzzvUjpKiM8

    Andrew Coates

    July 4, 2018 at 5:08 pm

  4. I’m confused, why are we supposed to care/get angry etc. over this?

    Have I missed something? The Brexit deal with be agreed by politicians but capitalism will find away of correcting/subverting it so why worry?

    I thought everyone on this site would know this.

    Steven Johnston

    July 5, 2018 at 2:48 pm

  5. Isn’t the Morning Star the ‘mouthpiece of the Communist Party’?

    K Jay

    July 5, 2018 at 3:15 pm

  6. Nah, these days they are right up Corbyn’s arsehole.

    Steven Johnston

    July 5, 2018 at 7:29 pm

  7. It is, *both* the “mouthpiece of the Communist Party” (ie the ‘official’ CP of Britain) *and* “right up Corbyn’s arsehole”: the two things are not in contradistinction.

    Jim Denham

    July 6, 2018 at 8:25 am

  8. Steven Johnston

    July 6, 2018 at 9:46 am

  9. Andrew Coates

    July 6, 2018 at 11:14 am

  10. *Groans*

    Now we have to listen to more “lies” from both sides, over which system of capitalism is best for British business.

    I’ll emigrate, but not to Venezuela, until it’s all over.

    Steven Johnston

    July 6, 2018 at 12:40 pm


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