ICTU Says UK Prime Minister has Not Addressed Border Uncertainty Facing Workers
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has done little to address the major uncertainty facing workers across the island of Ireland as a result of Brexit, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said t the Congress Executive Council meeting on Wednesday.
The ICTU represents almost 750,000 workers across Ireland, including 215,000 workers in Northern Ireland. The discussion of Brexit and the implications for workers followed the UK Prime Minister’s major policy speech outlining the UK position on Brexit.
The Congress Executive agreed that the position outlined had provided no certainty both for workers in the Republic of Ireland whose companies trade with the UK, and workers in Northern Ireland, who will find themselves outside of the EU without their consent.
Congress General Secretary Patricia King said: “It had been clear for some time that the current Tory government seemed intent on leaving the single market and no amount of positive spin and rhetoric about a future global Britain can mask the fact that the UK government is intent on turning inwards in an ever increasingly globalised world. Given that the UK is a key trading partner and the fact that the Republic of Ireland may essentially be the new EU land border it is imperative that the Irish government take a lead role in negotiations with the remaining 27 member states to ensure that our unique needs and circumstances are addressed.
“Whilst the UK Prime Minister states that she agrees with the Taoiseach that the common travel area should remain, this will be an EU border and not just an Irish one. Therefore this will require the agreement of the other 26 member states. Our government needs to ensure that the nearly 25,000 workers (and others) who traverse the border daily will be able to continue to do so post Brexit. It is quite clear that certain sectors of the economy will be more exposed to this potentially hard Brexit, for example manufacturing and in particular the agri and food related sectors.”
Congress Assistant General Secretary with responsibility for Northern Ireland, Owen Reidy, said: “It seems as if the UK wants the benefits of the Customs Union without the responsibilities and obligations that this entails. We believe it is critical that the UK and in particular Northern Ireland remains in the Customs Union. Unlike the rest of the UK a majority of Northern Ireland exports (56%) go to the EU and two thirds of this figure to the Republic of Ireland.
“We will be meeting with our sister trade union congresses in Scotland, Wales and England next month and will work collaboratively with them to ensure that the voice of workers is heard by the devolved governments, the Irish and UK government. We must ensure that workers across the isles do not pay the price of Brexit,” General Secretary Patricia King concluded.