If a key motion passes this afternoon, the trade union movement will go beyond Labour's policy on the EU, marking a radical shift.
The TUC appears set to back staying in the single market and customs union during the Brexit transition – and potentially permanently, too – after General Secretary Frances O’Grady signalled a major policy shift today.
The motion to stay in the two frameworks has already passed the TUC’s General Council, and will be voted on by Congress today.
Significantly, it leaves the door open to permanently staying in the single market – ensuring the free movement of trade, people and goods after Brexit, with O’Grady saying the permanent single market membership ‘meets our tests’.
The move goes bolsters and goes beyond Labour’s position on the issue, after the party backed transitional membership of the two frameworks last month.
In a press conference, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“The TUC is calling for us to stay in the single market and customs union during the transition. That way we get a smooth exit from the EU – no jumping off a cliff-edge. It’ll give the UK some breathing space to negotiate the right long-term deal for the UK.
“For a final deal we want all options on the table, but we know that an option that meets our tests is staying in the single market, after we leave the EU.”
The motion, seen by Left Foot Forward, states:
“The UK should seek a transitional period after leaving the EU in March 2019. This is a pragmatic solution, and recognises that the government’s criminal lack of preparation means that a good Brexit deal cannot be achieved by March 2019.
“The simplest option to minimise disruption across all sectors of the economy, is for the current arrangements to continue with the UK remaining a member of the single market and customs union during the transition period.
“This will protect tariff-free, barrier-free frictionless trade with the EU as well as protecting workers’ existing rights and making sure the UK benefits from any further EU rights introduced during this period.”
Debate on the policy starts from 4:30pm, and it may come under opposition from more Eurosceptic unions. Watch this space.
While the motion refers to keeping ‘all options on the table’, senior TUC sources told Left Foot Forward that the motion if passed would mark an explicit backing of permanent single market membership.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.
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