STAYING in the European single market could be the best way for Britain to avoid a “kamikaze Brexit,” Frances O’Grady said yesterday.
The TUC general secretary said that “all options” should be “on the table,” but remaining in the European Economic Area was an “option that meets all our tests.”
Speaking on the first day of the TUC Congress in Brighton, Ms O’Grady said continued membership of the single market would not necessarily require total freedom of movement in its current form.
“We are not starry-eyed about the single market, and we reject the liberalisation [of the labour market], a charge often led by the UK government,” she said.
She said companies “shouldn’t be able to advertise abroad for jobs that are not advertised at home.”
A compromise position on Brexit was endorsed by delegates yesterday evening after being put forward by the TUC general council.
It stated that the labour movement “respects the decision taken in the 2016 referendum that the UK should leave the EU.”
But it warned that the government’s approach in negotiations “could lead to the UK facing a cliff-edge exit” from the bloc.
Britain’s unions were split on the question of EU membership before last year’s referendum. The majority, including the TUC’s biggest affiliates, backed a Remain vote.
However, rail unions RMT and Aslef, along with the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union and the Northern Ireland Public Service Association, supported Brexit.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “As far as RMT is concerned membership of the single market is membership of the EU and would mean the retention of key anti-worker policies like rail privatisation and social dumping. We would be kept under the iron grip of the unelected Brussels bureaucracy with control remaining out of our hands.
“RMT is opposing the TUC general council statement for the simple reason that key sections are at odds with this union’s long-standing European policies.”
The general council statement, which was moved by Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner, called for a “people’s Europe, not a bosses’ Europe.”
It said Britain “must manage migration better by preventing exploitation and undercutting and by reversing cuts.”
The statement also reaffirmed the TUC’s call for Britain to remain in the single market for a transitional period after Brexit, a position recently adopted by the Labour Party.
Ms O’Grady added: “The clock is ticking towards what I can only call a kamikaze Brexit. Workers’ rights we won from the EU must be protected. We don’t want a race to the bottom.”
In her keynote speech at Congress tomorrow, Ms O’Grady will say: “The Prime Minister is sticking to the same old script that she can get whatever she wants.
“That we can all have all the same benefits of the single market without playing by the rules. This isn’t a grown-up negotiating position. It’s a letter to Santa.”