Opinion: No plan for post EU would be a '˜disaster' for Sheffield

With less than 12 months to go until Brexit day, working people in Sheffield have reason to be worried.

Thursday, 12th April 2018, 6:08 am
Updated Thursday, 12th April 2018, 3:31 pm
Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary. © Jess Hurd/reportdigital.co.uk Tel: 01789-262151/07831-121483 [email protected] NUJ recommended terms & conditions apply. Moral rights asserted under Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988. Credit is required. No part of this photo to be stored, reproduced, manipulated or transmitted by any means without permission.

Whichever way you voted in the referendum, the government simply isn’t standing up for your interests.

They still haven’t come up with a plan to protect jobs in your communities or your rights at work.

They haven’t given local businesses the guarantees they need either.

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In fact, they’re so unprepared that we’re still facing a real risk of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.

That would be disastrous for Sheffield.

The government’s own analysis shows that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would hit growth in Yorkshire and the Humber by seven per cent.

Sheffield’s future as a steel-making city is a case in point. Steel-making is in South Yorkshire’s blood.

But we know, after Rotherham and Redcar, that a Conservative government won’t step in when local jobs are threatened by global markets.

Now, with a new trade war on the horizon, we’ll be losing the EU tariffs that protect us from cheap Chinese and American steel.

Why would we make it even harder for Forgemasters or Aldwarke to keep making steel where it should be made?

After the referendum, Theresa May promised to listen to people in places like Sheffield, to ensure they got more jobs, more investment and more opportunities to thrive.

In reality, the opposite has happened. The terms of Brexit are being decided by factions within the Conservative Party.

Ordinary working people aren’t getting a look in.

The TUC is clear: the UK voted to leave the EU. But no one voted to be poorer or to lose their rights at work.

So we analysed all the options available to the UK to see which is the best way to protect jobs and rights at work.

Right now, it looks like the best option is to stay in the single market and customs union.

That will mean that goods and services can move easily around Europe – protecting good jobs.

It will mean that the Conservatives can’t undermine the rights at work that unions won from Europe.

So we want the prime minister to put the needs of working people first, and put all options for a final Brexit deal back on the table.

But, of course, the problems facing our communities don’t begin or end with Brexit.

Ten years on from the global financial crisis, working people’s incomes still haven’t recovered.

Too many communities have seen well-paid, skilled jobs disappear, without anything taking their place.

One in ten workers in Yorkshire and the Humber are on insecure contracts, proving that the gig economy is putting a modern spin on old-fashioned exploitation.

It’s not surprising that many feel left behind.

Whatever happens, trade unions will keep fighting for a better deal for working people.

But without a decent Brexit deal, it’s going to be a lot harder to tackle the big challenges facing our communities.

Time is running out. Theresa May needs to stop crossing her fingers and hoping something will turn up. It’s time to get a deal that delivers for ordinary working people, in Sheffield and across the UK.

Frances O’Grady, is the TUC General Secretary. She has been an active trade unionist and campaigner all her working life.

Frances will be visiting Yorkshire tomorrow to give a keynote speech on Brexit. Details of her visit can be found online at www.tuc.org.uk/brexityorkshireconf. The event will be free to attend.