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Britain's Future In Europe / Referendum

For all the latest updates on Europe, see our GMB European News —  latest issues available to download here.

26 July 2016

What Brexit means for GMB members

The EU referendum result has been a catalyst for major political and economic upheaval in Britain, and we know that a lot of our GMB members are feeling unsure about what happens now. GMB’s job has always been to protect and promote our members’ jobs, rights and conditions, and this remains our number one priority in these turbulent times. We have produced a new factsheet to help keep members informed, as well as a specific update briefing for European Works Council reps. Both are available to download in the Additional Resources below.

29 September 2016

Tory government must publish EU exit plan and ensure workers are protected, says GMB

Patience is wearing thin both in the UK and in the rest of the EU at Prime Minister Theresa May’s continued reluctance to give more details on when Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union might begin, and what the government’s negotiation strategy will be. Though Theresa May has ruled out any second referendum or attempt to stay in the EU “by the back door”, her demand last month that key ministers provide her with UK exit ‘action plans’ has still not led to any substantial proposals to date. It is expected that the formal exit negotiations will be launched in February or even March 2017.

The GMB Central Executive Council adopted its statement this month on Britain’s EU exit, emphasising that our priority is to protect and promote the jobs, rights and economic security of our members, and we will do this at every level.

GMB supported the composite motions at TUC Congress this month warning the Tory government that workers must not pay the price for Britain’s EU exit, that our EU-based employment and social rights are not to be touched, and that residency rights for EU citizens in Britain and British people living in the rest of the EU must be fully guaranteed and extended.

“The government needs to be honest about what leaving the European Union entails, and it needs to set out the consequences of the different courses of action,” urged Labour Leader in Europe and GMB MEP Glenis Willmott. “Leaving the European Union will be the biggest change in our lifetime, and will affect our country for generations to come. It cannot be left to Tory hardliners to determine how this is done, and must not be pushed through without proper democratic scrutiny,” Glenis added.

Calls are also growing from MPs that they be given a vote before the exit process is officially triggered. David Davis – Britain’s new Secretary for Leaving the EU – has stated that at least some of the changes in legislation following the UK’s EU exit will need parliamentary ratification. Legal advice sought by Theresa May, however, insists that parliamentary consent is not obligatory. The Labour Party has warned of the dangerous constitutional precedent that such a circumvention of a parliamentary vote could set.

For their part, EU leaders have warned that Britain will not be able to pick and choose its future relationship with the European Union, and that if Britain wants to keep its access to the EU Internal Market, then it will have to continue to accept the corresponding right to free movement of workers – one of the major points of contention during the EU referendum campaign.


3 August 2016

After the referendum – what happens next?

The result of the referendum on its own is not officially binding, and Britain will need to trigger Article 50 of the EU Treaty (on Member State withdrawal from the EU) in order to legally begin the withdrawal procedure. We would then have up to two years in which to reach an agreement.

New Prime Minister Theresa May has announced she requires time to prepare for any negotiations with the EU, which will not be launched before the start of 2017. Many EU leaders had called on Britain to trigger the negotiations straightaway and have vowed not to enter into any formal or informal discussions with the British government until then.

The key issue for Theresa May will be to decide what kind of future relationship Britain should have with the EU. The ‘Norway model’ has been touted as one of the preferred options, as it would allow Britain to maintain access to the EU’s single market (the EU is Britain’s biggest trading partner) by joining Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein in the European Economic Area (EEA). However, it would also mean Britain accepting free movement of people – one of the main issues of contention during the referendum campaign. Another option would be to negotiate a bilateral deal with the EU, as Switzerland has done, though this would take much more time and Britain is less likely to get an advantageous deal.

TUC is demanding to be fully involved in both the preparations for the talks and the negotiations themselves, to ensure the best possible deal for UK workers and their families. GMB will be working closely with TUC and trade union colleagues from across Europe on this.

Until the negotiations are concluded, Britain remains an EU Member State and EU law, rights, and obligations will continue to apply.


GMB defends rights of EU workers in Britain and British workers in Europe

GMB is committed to supporting and defending the interests of all our members, British and foreign nationals, and we are calling on the UK government to take immediate action to end the uncertainty faced by both European workers living in the UK and British workers living elsewhere in Europe following the outcome of the EU referendum. Their rights must be guaranteed and it is wrong – and dangerous for the economy – for the government to keep these workers and their families in limbo.

The arrangements Britain will reach as it withdraws from the EU are still unclear, but until the end of the negotiations, existing residence and free movement rights will continue to be guaranteed under EU law.

In the meantime, GMB will continue to be very vocal in this debate, and will continue to fight to protect all our members' rights.


24 June 2016

GMB calls for urgent action to protect jobs and workplace rights as Britain votes for Brexit

The government needs to act straight away to secure jobs and keep the economy moving says GMB.

GMB General Secretary Tim Roache called for urgent government action today to protect jobs in the wake of the Brexit vote, as well as an immediate commitment from government that it will act to protect the rights of working people. (See below for a link to a Huffington Post article by Tim Roache).

GMB had urged its 640,000 members to vote to remain in the EU to protect the workers’ rights that the union had fought for – such as the right to guaranteed holiday pay, maternity leave and a raft of health and safety legislation, as well as jobs and industries that rely on the EU.

The vote to leave the EU puts at risk all rights guaranteed by EU legislation, as the country heads into unchartered waters, with the economic shock of the vote holding potential for another economic crash.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said “We’re in uncharted waters. The government needs to act straight away to secure jobs and keep the economy moving – too many working people are still carrying the can for the last economic crash, they can ill afford another one.

What happens next cannot be the preserve of a government elected with 37% of the vote or potentially a Prime Minister who was never elected at all. The British people have spoken, many of them frustrated with business as usual, choosing to leave the EU because of the impacts of the flexible labour market and the pursuit of free trade above all else.

Our place in the world cannot be one based on a Tory Party free-for-all, free market philosophy. A race to the bottom which prioritises the removal of trade barriers and the flexible labour market above all else will fail working people and the very voters who made their decision yesterday.

The Prime Minister must act now, on a cross party basis, to heal and represent the whole county. Not just the rifts in his Party. That means an urgent plan to protect jobs and a guarantee that no workplace rights will face the axe.”


Click here to read Tim Roache’s EU referendum article for the Huffington Post.


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Additional Resources

What Brexit means for EWC reps (Aug 2016)

download pdf496Kb (pdf) - 02 August 2016

GMB EU update - What Britain's withdrawal from the EU means for European Works Council reps


download pdf403Kb (pdf) - 02 August 2016

GMB EU Update - What Britain's withdrawal from the EU means for GMB members

GMB Scotland reaction as UK votes to leave the EU

download pdf155Kb (pdf) - 24 June 2016

GMB Scotland Reaction to Brexit Vote

Why voting to remain in the EU is the right choice for GMB Scotland members

download pdf244Kb (pdf) - 22 June 2016

GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith on why GMB Scotland members should vote to remain

GMB letter to EU Heads of State (June 2015)

download pdf289Kb (pdf) - 23 June 2015

EU Referendum in UK – Don’t negotiate away our social and employment rights

GMB response to BIS consultation - EU Social and Employment policy

download pdf262Kb (pdf) - 24 January 2014

GMB response to BIS consultation reviewing our EU social and employment rights (Jan 2014)

GMB response to BIS consultation - EU Single Market

download pdf240Kb (pdf) - 28 February 2013

GMB response to BIS consultation reviewing the EU Single Market (Feb 2013)

Don't Bluff Our Call on Europe

download pdf201Kb (pdf) -

'Don't Bluff Our Call on Europe' GMB article (May 2013)