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02/09/2018 Comments are off SIPTU Health

5 tips for Tories’ Brexit negotiators

The Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK government are entering perhaps their most critical period. I use the term “negotiations” loosely.

As trade unionists, we all know a thing or two about negotiations. We know that there are a number of common key principles which apply, whether you are negotiating a restructuring or a pay claim, or even a process to extract your state out of the EU. I would suggest there are five key principles.

First, you have to know what it is you want. Second, what you want has to be achievable and realisable. Third, you have to have a strategy to achieve this. Fourth, you need to bring your people with you.Fifth and finally you don’t need to like the other side, but at some stage, you have to let them know what they have to do to settle.

Under each of these criteria, this Tory UK government has failed abysmally.

Were the consequences not so serious for us all it would be laughable.

The EU is very clear in its position. An agreement has to be reached by the October Council meeting as the agreement has to be ratified by each of the remaining 27 EU member states and this has to occur before the end of March 2019 when the UK is due to leave to EU.

Given the chaotic nature of the “negotiations” on the side of the UK government, the reality is unless Teresa May can hold a depleted and fractured Cabinet together, her Cabinet talks will probably break down.

Losing David Davis and Boris Johnson may only be the beginning of her government implosion. However, if May can push her latest position on Brexit through her party and parliament in the coming weeks and months, and the EU reach a compromise with her government, a soft Brexit is possible.

However, the EU is unlikely to accept May’s latest White Paper proposals as they stand.

All the while the people of these islands potentially suffer the ever-increasing prospect of a devastating hard Brexit.

The ICTU has been particularly active in articulating the interests of workers and citizens north and south of the Irish border.

We are focusing on the social, economic and political consequences of Brexit, seeking that workers on the island of Ireland do not pay the price of Brexit.

Our key priorities include employment, trade, living standards, the peace process, rights and avoiding a hard border north and south but, equally important, east and west.

We are engaging with Michel Barnier and his team, the Irish government through the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the UK government through the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the international trade union movement through the ETUC and the English, Welsh and Scottish TUCs and all other political parties and key social partners north and south.

In recent weeks the ICTU met with Jeremy Corbyn and his team at our Belfast offices on Brexit. Most of us in the trade union movement would like to see a change of government in Britain and the return of Labour to power.

However, it is clear on the issue of Brexit, the British Labour Party is also quite divided and it has some way to travel on the issue of Brexit to stand up for the interests of workers.

Clearly many of the UK unions, and indeed the TUC with ICTU’s support, have played an important role in bringing the British Labour Party on a journey. UNITE has indicated support for an alternative approach to Brexit.

However, it is clear that Labour has yet to reach that final destination which, if it is to be in the interests of workers on the island of Ireland (irrespective of their views on the constitutional issue) and workers across Britain, has to be the softest Brexit possible.

That means the UK as a whole remaining in the Single Market and in a Customs Union. There are many people, including trade unionists, now calling for a referendum on the final deal.

Returning to the analogy at the start of this article on the key elements to any negotiation, whether it be a pay claim or a restructuring, or indeed leaving the EU, what is wrong with letting the members and the people have the final say?

This article was written by Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU, Owen Reidy. 

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