L. Visentini (European Trade Union Confederation): Brexit agreement should offer immediate protections for EU workers in the UK, but there is total uncertainty about the long term

The Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union is hosting the Economic and Financial Affairs Council in Bucharest this week, and for the first time ever, they have invited trade unions and business owners’ organisations to the summit. BR spoke to Luca Visentini, the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), about the consequences Brexit will have for Romanian and other EU workers in the UK and what the UK economy will look like after the country leaves the bloc. 


There’s a lot of trade between EU countries and the UK. A lot of countries have prepared contingency plans for a possible no-deal Brexit, which were made public for SMEs especially. What effect do you think such a scenario would have on workers?

The potential destruction that can come from a hard Brexit is terrible. Not only in the UK but also in the EU, because there are so many products going across the border, as well as services. It could be potentially disastrous for the UK market and workers, first because a lot of jobs will be lost but also because they are at risk of seeing their working conditions being undermined. On the other side, we have a problem in Ireland, as well as on the other side of the Channel, in continental countries where workers are really worried about the possible developments.

That’s why, while we would welcome a postponement that hopefully leads to a different and better agreement, it’s also important to understand what is going to happen in the future, because this is not just about the withdrawal agreement and the UK Parliament not being able to find any solution, but it’s also about starting talks about the future relations between the UK and the EU. On this, there’s no clarity at all. Will it be a customs union, a single market, a Norway-style deal? Nothing is clear and we don’t have any clue about what the UK politicians really think about the future, they don’t seem interested in that. So we hope not only that there will be a postponement, but also a new round of elections in the UK so we can have a different government and parliament in place, which could lead to more productive discussions.

Can you tell us some of your estimations on the unemployment rate in the UK in case of a no-deal Brexit?

We have calculated that there is a potential 50 percent increase to the current unemployment rate, which is currently not the highest, but not the lowest, either. We are also taking into consideration the precarious jobs in the UK, which take this rate to 10-12 percent – it’s not just about the official unemployment rate but also these zero-hour contracts and all kinds of precarious work. The risk is that this number could reach 15-18 percent which would be disastrous, especially in the short term. With time, they’ll probably be able to recover a bit, but the immediate impact would be huge and there are no resources to face all of this.

If companies in the financial services and industrial sectors start relocating to continental Europe because of Brexit, there’s also a risk that workers would have to relocate and they’ll turn into migrants, and they’ll have little chance to find a job on the continent.


All text written by Ioana Erdei may be found here. Source: “business-review.eu


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