In her letter, (February 21), criticising a letter from me, Mary Steele did not make clear my original letter was about the dangers of leaving the EU immediately, as demanded by Terry Palmer.
This would mean immediate dropping out of all existing agreements. She quotes sources published after I wrote the letter on January 17, about negotiations which may mitigate potential problems. The point of my letter was to emphasise the need for sensible negotiations to ensure the best outcome both for the UK and the other members of the EU.
Most important of these has to be detailed work as to how to avoid a “hard” border between N. Ireland and the Republic. If we leave both the Single Market and the Customs Union, it is very difficult to see exactly how this is to be achieved, as there will have to be customs and quality inspections as exist on other external EU borders for goods coming from outside. The December talks were very vague as to how exactly this is to be managed.
Mary says workers’ rights are domestic in origin. This is not true of the rights acquired under the Social Chapter which John Major refused to sign up to. This was signed by Tony Blair so British workers do now enjoy rights at work which particularly benefited part-time workers, overwhelmingly women, to entitlement to paid holidays and pension rights and improved maternity benefits.
Other EU legislation limits the length of time workers can be forced to work and insists on reasonable breaks during a shift. Does Mary believe that a future Tory government headed by Boris Johnson, outside the EU, will continue to maintain these rights, given the clamour from his Tory Brexiters to do away with “all these rules and regulations” and their boasts of a flexible work-force which leaves a million workers on zero hours contracts, often working in very poor conditions certainly not within the spirit of the Working Time Directive, with absolutely no financial security?
After pointing out the potential hazards of leaving without any agreement, my final paragraph was about the urgency of real, serious national debate about how we achieve an agreement, and also a say for parliament and people as to whether what is finally proposed is actually what people wanted when they voted 51.9 to 48.1% to leave the EU.
Northfield Court, S10