POLITICS
15/11/2017 16:39 GMT | Updated 15/11/2017 17:23 GMT

David Davis Ignoring Requests For Brexit Talks With Trade Unions, Claims GMB Chief

But business groups were invited into Downing Street earlier this week.

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Ministers are ignoring meeting requests with one of the UK’s biggest trade unions to discuss working people’s Brexit fears, the GMB chief has claimed.

Tim Roache, General Secretary of the 630,000-strong GMB union, said ministers had not responded to his offer to meet with him to discuss the UK’s negotiations with the EU.

His concerns over a lack of engagement were echoed by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), with one source telling HuffPost UK there’s been “very little” dialogue compared to what they believe is needed.

The comments came the day after Theresa May, David Davis and other ministers invited representatives from UK and European business groups into Downing Street for a special meeting on the Brexit negotiations.

Speaking at an IPPR think tank event on Tuesday, Roache said: “There’s been no interactions with the Trade Union movement and the very real experiences - day-in day-out - what those people face.”

When asked by HuffPost UK if a similar Downing Street meeting to the one given to the business community was penciled in for the trade union movement, Roache said: “There’s very little to say. 

“Although we have offered ourselves up, we’ve said both through the TUC and particularly as the GMB that we want to work with Government.

“We have many experiences that we want to share and want to bring to the table, but we haven’t had a response.

“That’s very disappointing.”

The lack of engagement with the trade unions comes despite David Davis having his first meeting after being appointed Brexit Secretary with TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady.

But while the Prime Minister delivered a speech at the CBI’s conference in 2016 and 2017, no Government minister address the TUC Congress since Brexit.

Stefan Rousseau - PA Images via Getty Images
BusinessEurope president Emma Marcegagia (front) and CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn (right) leaving 10 Downing Street  after a meeting between business leaders from Europe and Theresa May.

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O’Grady called for the Government to do more to bring the different sectors together.

He said: “It’s high time the government put the country’s interests before those of the Conservative Party.

“Instead of ministers meeting business and unions in separate rooms, the Prime Minister should put together a ‘Team UK’ with representation from trade unions, business, the nations and all the main political parties.

“That way we can reunite the country and make progress on getting a deal with the EU on the issues that matter most – protecting jobs, investment, and workers’ rights.”

A DexEU spokesperson said: “One of the Secretary of State’s first meetings following the Department’s creation was with the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress.

“We are hearing from as many organisations, companies and institutions as possible, including trade unions, and will continue to do so as we move towards our exit from the EU.”

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS via Getty Images
Theresa May addresses delegates at the annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in east London, on November 6, 2017. 

The business meeting in Downing Street on Monday saw representatives of groups from across the EU, including Spain, Germany and France, put their concerns over Brexit direct to the Prime Minister.

In a statement after the meeting, Emma Marcegaglia, President of the Brussels-based BusinessEurope, said: “Business is extremely concerned with the slow pace of negotiations and the lack of progress only one month before the decisive December European Council.

“Business aims to avoid a cliff edge and therefore asks for a ‘status quo – like’ transitional arrangement with the UK staying in the customs union and the single market as this will best provide citizens and businesses with greater certainty.”

Speaking at the same IPPR event as Roache, CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn gave her reflections of the Downing Street meeting with May and Davis.

She said: “I think they really do get it on the cost of no deal not only have we been banging on about it now for a very long time publically but most importantly privately.”

She added: “The next frontier, because I am hopeful we will get to sufficient progress in December, is the shape of the final deal.

“That’s where we still have a lot of work still to do and building consensus around this is very important.”