The British people have decided that the UK will leave the EU. But since the referendum the government has set out a Brexit course that will unnecessarily risk jobs and rights at work. And they have done so little groundwork for the negotiations that there is a real risk we could crash out of the EU without a deal or a plan in March 2019.
A “no deal” Brexit could destroy the jobs that people rely on – and having a knock-on effect for the whole economy. Nearly 3 million jobs rely on trade with the EU – and around £120bn of trade could be at risk from a Brexit deal that limits UK businesses’ access to EU markets. Harming trade will harm the UK economy, risk jobs and make the country poorer and less able to afford great public services.
The government should think again, and keep all options on the table for the final deal with the EU. Whatever deal we make has to maintain workers’ rights and preserve tariff-free, barrier-free, frictionless trade with the rest of Europe. We think the best way to do that is to stay in the single market and customs union.
Getting a decent deal will take time to negotiate and time to implement. So we’ll be pushing for a transitional agreement that keeps our current arrangements going whilst we sort things out. During this interim period, the UK should still be a member of the single market and customs union. This is the easiest way to prevent job-destroying disruption and uncertainty.
Alongside this, we’ll be scrutinising the government’s plans to bring EU laws into UK law. This matters because lots of workers’ rights come from the EU or rely on EU court judgements. But what we’ve seen so far has us worried. There’s a real chance that hard-won workers’ rights will be watered down, or left open to challenge in the future.
And throughout we’ll be advocating for the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, and Brits living in the EU. All of them need a guarantee that their lives won’t be disrupted by Brexit – and that they get the right to stay permanently.