As Britain prepares to withdraw from the European Union (EU), uncertainty for the UK and for its industries has never been so high.
The government’s lack of a plan and its talk of “Hard Brexit” threatens jobs and future investment in all sectors Unite members are employed in, along with their employment rights and rights to be consulted by their employers.
This is because:
- The EU is the largest source of investment in the UK’s manufacturing, science, other industries and regional development. In 2013, EU countries accounted for £453 billion worth of overseas investment in the UK – 46% of the total.
- Over 50% of the 80% of vehicles produced in the UK are exported to Europe.
- New investment is already threatened. Engineering company Siemens has announced it is putting plans for new wind power investment in the UK on hold, while Nissan has warned that it will look for compensation from the government should tax barriers be imposed on car manufacturers exporting to Europe.
- Negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU is the responsibility of the government’s “Brexit team” – David Davies, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson. While all three campaigned for Britain to leave the EU, they have very different priorities and do not agree about the approach to negotiations.
- Article 50, which cannot be reversed, allows just two years from the date it is triggered for agreement to be reached between the UK and the EU on the terms of withdrawal. Prime minister Theresa May has confirmed this will happen by the end of March 2017, meaning the UK is likely to have left the EU by the summer of 2019.
- Triggering article 50 without a clear plan for Brexit will increase uncertainty and failure to reach agreement on the UK’s future relationship with Europe, within the two year deadline, will leave Britain with no access to the single market and no special relationship with the EU.
- Unless a new trading relationship with the EU is reached by the two-year deadline, the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are likely to come into effect. This will mean trading tariffs could be imposed between the EU and UK, meaning charges of around 10% could be levied on exports to the EU.
- Britain lost its AAA credit rating as a result of the Brexit vote, meaning that borrowing will be more expensive.
- The pound has plummeted against the US dollar and some other currencies, including the euro, since the referendum result and reached a record low against the dollar in October 2016.
- EU regulations provide the right of the workforce of a multi-national company operating across two or more EU member states to organise a European works council (EWC). These ensure that worker representatives from across the firm meet together and are informed and consulted by employers.