The result of the referendum on 23 June 2016 sent shockwaves throughout the economy, but what does it mean for the future of UK manufacturing? The government’s utter lack of a plan for Brexit has allowed uncertainty to plague the economy; threatening investment and ultimately jobs.
To help restore certainty the Unite Manufacturing Combine has launched a new strategy - Brexit on our terms [PDF] - which sets out the concerns and priorities of Unite members across the union's manufacturing sectors. The strategy draws on the experience of Unite members to examine the potential impact of Brexit on manufacturing including; the threat to inward investment, the future of the UK-EU supply chain, access to European research funding, and the future of European works councils.
The strategy poses four immediate demands to the government:
Single market: Ensure tariff-free access to the single market is a central objective in the upcoming negotiations
Article 50: A vote in parliament before Article 50 is triggered
Workers’ rights: Unite will accept no diminution of workers’ rights currently underpinned by the European Union.
Workers’ voice: Trade union and industry voices must be consulted in Brexit negotiations. The Tories have no mandate to negotiate alone.
The strategy also details vital red lines for any new trade deal, such as the protection of workers’ rights and trade mechanisms to prevent the illegal dumping of steel, tyres and ceramics which are used to undermine UK industry.
Ultimately, the upcoming Brexit negotiations must be linked to the government’s promise of an industrial strategy. If this promise is going to mean more than just a new ministerial doorplate than it must be long term, interventionist and drawn up in consultation with trade unions.
Unite proposes that such a strategy must marshal all the options at the government’s disposal including: direct support for strategic industries such as steel; investment in infrastructure projects; removing barriers to reshoring jobs; use of the public sector procurement budget to support manufacturing; and closing the skills gap by investing in apprenticeships.
Unite argues that the Tories must not be allowed to negotiate the terms of Brexit behind closed doors. There must be full democratic scrutiny and the voice of half a million manufacturing workers must be heard.