No doubt like many readers I was appalled by the shocking revelations in this Monday’s Opinion piece in the Guardian by TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady – Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are lies!
I jest. Frances was 100% correctly commenting upon the dangers faced by workers in the post Brexit world particularly with two of the most hardened right wing Brexiteers flexing their policy muscles in front of an incredibly weak Prime Minister. I agree with a great deal but not everything, that Frances said in her opinion piece.
She was commenting upon the address Gove and Johnson gave to workers at DSC Manufacturing at Stratford-upon-Avon under the banner #TakeControl and in particular the reports that they were plotting to scrap protections the working time directive.
The photographs from their address, by the way, struck fear in to my heart. They looked a bit like a parody of the infamous “love in address” by Nick Clegg and David Cameron in the rose garden at 10 Downing Street after the liberals sold their souls and agreed to become lobby fodder for the Tories as they embarked on an unprecedented series of legislative attacks on Trade Union and workers’ rights. If they get their way #GoveSon will inflict far more damage on Trade Union and workers’ rights in the very near future in our post EU world.
So GoveSon are liars? We always knew that. Boris never wanted to stand for Prime Minister and Gove was going to support his close friend and ally as he ran for the post he didn’t want. But the biggest lies that they and their Brexiteer cronies told was in the lead up to the referendum.
And here is the top 6
- “Once we have settled our accounts we will take back control of roughly £350m per week.”
- “Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market”
- “We will need an emergency budget to restore stability in public finances”
- “The UK loses out because other member favour a highly regulated and protectionist economy”
- “Turkey is joining the EU”
- “Leaving the EU will provide the opportunity to end our housing crisis”
Frances’ opinion piece highlights that GoveSon may make the mother of all lies the mantra that Theresa May has recited in relation to workers’ rights that post Brexit the UK would “protect and extend” those rights. She is absolutely right to highlight this fact. Workers’ rights will not be protected and extended they will be decimated and diminished.
To be sure, the protections under the Working Time Regulations will go but it certainly will not stop there. Equalities legislation, protection from unfair dismissal and health and safety will all be reduced and some completely removed. We will see the introduction of a light touch, if not no touch, form of regulation that was the real cause of the financial crisis of a decade ago applied to workers’ rights and their safety. We will count the cost in human tragedy, suffering and death. Frances O’Grady suggests that it will come down to the battle between the Prime Minister and the Brexiteers as to how bad it gets. I disagree.
Theresa May was always speaking with a forked tongue as far as I am concerned when she first spoke the words “protect and extend”. Light regulation and the laisse faire approach to employment rights and health and safety is simply the Tory state of nature irrespective of whether they are a hard right, moderate paternalist, Brexiteer or pro-European. It simply comes with the membership card. For the sake of our workers and their families we must therefore find a solution.
So what is to be done? Here, I think I disagree with Frances O’Grady and so many colleagues and comrades within the Trade Union Labour Movement. It has been a journey for me. I see no other alternative and, to be honest, I don’t know why there are not far more people taking the view that I now do and must.
To return to another of the Prime Minister’s empty mantras – Brexit does not need to mean Brexit. People seem scared to suggest that the UK people should be given another vote on this matter. It is suggested that such a view is unconstitutional or undemocratic. My views here are not constitutional and are not as a lawyer. They are as a Trade Union lawyer who knows how much damage will be inflicted on workers’ rights and how damage workers will therefore suffer if we leave the EU.
The apparent impenetrable fortress that is the EU Referendum is built on a foundation of lies. It would be naïve to think that those lies did not affect the way people voted and the polls have shown that people have changed their minds.
If the EU Referendum was a contract it would be open to a legal challenge on the grounds of an operative misrepresentation. I would go as far as to say it could be challenged on the grounds of multiple fraudulent misrepresentations. Sadly, it is not a contract and so my analogy is only of limited assistance.
Nevertheless, as the last 18 months have shown us, Brexit is far less about Brexit than it is about the deal. It the deal and the type of Brexit we face that occupies all of the discussions in all of the corners of the country. That is why Parliament seized the power to hold a meaningful vote once the final deal is on the table. That crucial vote of Parliament has shown the way forward. It is not just our elected representatives who should have that right of final veto; it is every registered voter in this country. The first referendum was no more than a mandate to enter into negotiations. There must be a final referendum to determine if the deal is good enough. If not, the pre EU Referendum status quo must remain.
So my call, in the name of workers’ rights, is for Parliament to give us the same power they seized for themselves – the power of a final vote of final veto.
Blog by Patrick McGuire, Partner