On Thursday 8 March EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will discuss Brexit with European trade union leaders including British and Irish trade union leaders Frances O’Grady and Jack O’Connor.
The trade union leaders – meeting at the European Trade Union Confederation Executive Committee (ETUC) – will adopt a statement calling for any Brexit deal to maintain EU standards for workers’ rights and to minimize disruption to trade between the EU and the UK.
The statement declares “if labour rights are not properly upheld after Brexit, it will not only damage workers in the UK, but it will have possible devastating effects on workers’ rights in the EU27” and “trigger a race to the bottom”. It goes on to state “A deregulatory drive could potentially reduce the costs of operating businesses in the UK to the detriment of companies in the rest of the EU” and that remaining in the European Economic Area would be the best option for working people to keep their existing rights.
The ETUC is also concerned that a future deal based on a free trade agreement would reduce trade from current levels (especially in services), add costs in manufacturing and destroy jobs. In addition trade agreements are flawed because labour protection clauses are usually weak, not binding and not enforceable. A customs union between the EU and UK would reduce the impact on trade, and help to ensure no hard border in Ireland.