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No to Boris Johnson's disastrous no-deal Brexit

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No responsible government would risk a no-deal Brexit, but Boris Johnson doesn’t care about the millions who will pay the price.
Frances O'Grady at Congress 2019

Welcome to Brighton and to the 151st Congress. We gather this year with our country in crisis.

We’ve got a prime minister with no majority and no mandate squatting in number 10, trying to force through a no-deal Brexit that will hit working people hard.

No deal means higher fuel prices and a more expensive weekly food shop. It means destroying good British jobs and taking money away from our NHS. And it will make us a laughing stock around the world.

No responsible government would risk no deal. But Boris Johnson doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about the millions of workers paying the price for Brexit uncertainty. He doesn’t care about the thousands of decent jobs at risk. And he doesn’t care that a decade of austerity has left our NHS at breaking point.

That’s why I know that at this Congress our movement will unite around our deep opposition to a no-deal Brexit and the severe impact it will have on the people we represent.

The good news is that we can change this. There’s a general election around the corner, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

So it’s time to get ready to stand up for workers, end austerity, rebuild Britain, and stop the threat of no-deal Brexit once and for all.

It’s working people who pay the price – every, single time

The prospect of crashing out of the EU without a deal will be on everyone’s minds at Congress.

But working people are already paying the price for the uncertainty of recent years, with thousands of decent jobs already lost across manufacturing, retail and other industries, and the economy on the brink of recession.

Millions are still trapped in insecure jobs with no control over their working lives. Pay still hasn’t recovered from the financial crisis. And years of austerity have left our schools, hospitals, public services and social security system at breaking point.

All of this has helped to embolden the far-right to sow division among working communities.

They scapegoat immigrants for problems the government should be fixing – like undercutting and pressure on public services. And BME workers continue to suffer racism and discrimination.

Working people need a new deal

Instead of more Brexit chaos, working people need change.

They need decent funding for public services. They need action to secure more well-paid jobs in vibrant local economies. And they need to be able to plan a decent future for themselves and their families.

That’s why we chose ‘a new deal for working people’ as this year’s Congress theme. Working people need a new deal, because the one we’ve got just isn’t working.

That’s where you come in. Because we know that it’s not just up to governments to deliver that better deal. Unions have a key role to play too.

Whether it’s taking on the gig economy, securing a better deal for agency workers or tackling pay inequality in the NHS, unions and their reps are taking the fight to bad bosses - and winning.

We'll rise to this challenge – like we always do

In tough times, we don’t flinch and we never stop standing up for the working class. Our movement has weathered many storms over the last century and a half.

Throughout every crisis – world wars and recessions, the financial crisis – trade unions have supported working people to rebuild their livelihoods and shape profound industrial and social change.

So whatever happens with a Brexit in the weeks and months to come, I know we’ll rise to the challenges to come by sticking to our values of solidarity, equality and internationalism.

Thank you for all your hard work over the last year and for all you do to keep our movement growing. I hope you have a great Congress.

Speech by Frances O'Grady, Monday 09 September 2019, Brighton