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A move to change Aslef’s policy on Brexit – the train drivers’ trade union was the first to come out in favour of leaving the EU after a referendum was called by David Cameron – was decisively rejected at the Annual Assembly of Delegates in Leeds this week.
Christian Carroll, of Waterloo Nine Elms branch, argued: “The position to support the Leave campaign was not an anti-immigration, pro-competition, stance but a stance that sought to deliver a Lexit that would divorce us from the EU, which seeks to deliver a damaging Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership and Fourth Railway Package.
“We thought leaving would facilitate the nationalisation of our railways, and other essential public services, and allow the regulation of markets where necessary.
“We believe this AAD should reverse Aslef’s existing pro-Brexit position to one of opposition to Brexit until after the election of a Labour government capable of delivering the type of exit package that Aslef can legitimately support – at which point our EC will be in a position to make a decision on Aslef’s stance.’
Ian Scrace, of Ashford branch, backing the change, said: “Brexit is one of the biggest issues of our time; a scandal, like PPI, of mis-sold information and propaganda by the political elite. Not about what’s best for the country, but about who will deliver it. The EC supported Brexit on a left-wing exit package. But this government won’t deliver that. We want to free the EC to make a decision as they say fit with the information we now have.”
But EC vice-president Andy Hudd, speaking against the move, told delegates: “I’m sure we’re all fed up with the discussion, but we need to rewind the clock a bit.
“The EU referendum, which was about infighting in the Tory Party, not about the best interests of the UK, is the most democratic – and most destructive – exercise in our history. We did adopt a Lexit – a left exit – position and that position was debated, at length, by the executive committee. And nothing we said at the time has changed.
“The Lexit argument didn’t take off because we have forgotten what it is like to be a socialist. We have a Brexit, not a Lexit. The Tories are not going to deliver a Brexit for workers. So we have two right-wing arguments, made for staying and leaving.
“The EU is a capitalist trading bloc, with the free movement of capital and labour, and we feel the EU is beyond reform in its present state. And we want to change our own government, too, which is in a mess.”
General secretary Mick Whelan said: “We didn’t lie to people. Our Lexit was not about stopping people moving, but about stopping social dumping. I’m the son of Irish immigrants and have nothing against people moving if they get paid the same as everyone else.
“John Major lied when he said membership of the EU meant we had to privatise our railways. And we lobbied against the Fourth Railway Package because we didn’t want our colleagues and comrades on the continent to go through the pain we have.”
Delegates voted 77-3 not to change Aslef’s policy on Brexit.
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