I moved Motion 194, from my branch, on the Future Trade & Co-operation Agreement. This motion called for five reforms in the FTC, calling for relaxation of the agreement on freedom of movement, rejoining Horizon Europe, the mutual R&D programme, to enhance inward investment, rejoining Erasmus+ to continue youth and educational exchanges, mutual reciprocal voting agreements to allow citizens of the UK and of the EU to vote where they live, and to ease trade friction particularly in the context of the Northern Ireland Protocol. I have clipped my moving speech, and Joanne Rust’s seconding speech. The CEC supported with qualification, and the motion was carried.

The words of the motion,

Congress notes that Brexit is not a one-off event but an ongoing process, and how it unfolds will determine all of our futures. The people who led the Leave campaign are now running the country, and theirs is an agenda of economic deregulation, racist scapegoating and border-building. 

Congress notes the Future Trade and Co-operation agreement with European Union and notes the many disadvantages to external and internal UK Trade caused by the Tory Govt’s hard Brexit.

We anticipate the review conference in 2024 and call on the Government to consider the following changes to current policy in the short term, 

  1. To agree a pan-European visa scheme for creative workers, such as actors and musicians
  2. To rejoin Erasmus+, the EU’s student academic exchange scheme, to allow our members and their children access to European Universities and allow European students access to UK Universities, ensuring that the community of peoples continues
  3. To rejoin Horizon Europe, the EU R&D programme to minimise the disruption to our industrial innovation
  4. To negotiate, a common reciprocal voting rights agreement to permit EU Citizens in the UK and British Citizens in the EU voting rights.
  5. To negotiate changes to Northern Ireland Protocol that eases intra-UK trade, complies with the Good Friday Agreement and maintains the Common Travel Area.

Congress instructs the CEC and the political department to liaise with the Parliamentary Labour Party GMB Group, and the Labour shadow front bench to plan and execute a campaign in Parliament to further these aims and for the next Labour Govt to adopt appropriate reforms.

And what I said.

Vice-President, Congress, Dave Levy, London Central General, moving Motion 194, Europe and the Future Trade and Co-operation Agreement.

It’s five years since the referendum, two and half years since the General Election that confirmed Brexit; we need to start telling ourselves, our members, and our neighbours the truth.

Brexit is an economic and social disaster.

The economy has one of the slowest recoveries from the pandemic, foreign inward investment on which our economic future is based has declined, the queues and delays at Dover and other ports, the developing maritime routes between Eire and continental Europe, and the declining trade balances as our export trade, and even imports with and from the EU dies, all require remediation.

To these problems we can add the contribution that the national labour shortage makes to inflation shown in such industries as the plutocrats’ essential services, such as sandwich & fast food shops and restaurants who can’t find staff and yet our own essential services, the NHS, public personal transport, and security and cleaning illustrated graphically to us by the pandemic are under-funded, under staffed and failing.

This motion makes five proposals for changes in the withdrawal & future trade agreements that will make life better for the people of the UK be they British citizens or migrants from or to the EU.

  • A EU Visa for creatives, supporting our brothers and sisters in Equity and the MU who have already made this call.
  • To re-enter Erasmus the educational exchange programme to allow our members and their children to study in Europe and with Europeans, this has already been offered by the EU
  • To re-enter Horizon Europe, the EU R&D programme, this has also already been offered by the EU
  • To harmonise the right to vote with the 24 member states of the EU that we don’t have agreements with, by allowing citizens of the UK and the EU to vote where they live.
  • To negotiate with the EU, to tune the Northern Ireland protocol to mitigate the stupidity of the customs barrier in the Irish Sea; this proposal and policy is to commit the GMB to seeking to reduce trade friction between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The CEC were also concerned about the words in the motion on the Northern Ireland Protocol. We believe that the caveats in the motion that any changes to Northern Ireland Protocol are negotiated with EU, and thus with Eire, are designed to ease intra-UK trade, comply with the Good Friday Agreement and maintains the Common Travel Area are sufficient safeguards that the GMB is not trapped into supporting Tory or DUP ultra stupidity which is  rearing its head on this issue again.

These proposals were drawn up 5½ months ago and opinion may well have moved on since then; even one Tory MP has suggested that the UK rejoin the single market, which would be another way to solve the trade friction issues with Northern Ireland and continental Europe. While passing this motion we need to be ready to consider re-joining the single market.

These proposals address in a limited way, freedom of movement to work and learn, improving inward investment, political rights and trade friction with the EU.

These are small steps, they’d make a difference and confront the problem of the Tories desire, for a Singapore or Zurich on Thames, with zero workers rights,  their desire to stoke up racist tension in order to underpin their hostile environment.  The trade proposals, might even reduce the problems of the lorry park and pissoir in Kent.

These are proposals that no matter our positions in 2016, we should be able to unite on.

The CEC will offer support with qualification, the Region will accept the qualifications.

I ask you to support the motion.

Image Credit: Rick Cohen @flickr CC 2006 BY-SA, European Union Expansion Celebration

The EU and the FTC at GMB22
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