The Trade Union Congress will “throw its weight behind” campaigning for a second referendum if Theresa May fails to secure a good Brexit deal, boss Frances O’Grady has confirmed.
As the organisation’s congress got underway in Manchester on Sunday, the general secretary said she was putting the PM “on notice” that a final deal which fails to protect British jobs would be unacceptable.
“We’ve accepted the result [of the referendum] but we’ve been very clear that the prime minister should make jobs, rights and no hard border in Ireland her priorities,” O’Grady told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“We think if we stayed in the Single Market and Customs Union, like Norway has stayed in the EEA, then that would be good enough – that would be the best way to protect people’s livelihoods,”
“Theresa May has tied herself up in red lines, made a mess of the negotiations.
“Frankly, I think trust in the government to deliver a good deal is nosediving, so we’ve got to find a sensible way through this.”
O’Grady repeated her call for the Article 50 process to be extended, allowing the UK to remain a member of the EU until its future relationship with the union is clarified.
She added: “We should focus on getting a deal that’s actually good for this country and that means good for working people.
“But if the prime minister is not prepared to do that, then it has to go back to the people and if there isn’t going to be an early general election then the only way is a popular vote.”
Labour MP David Lammy, a champion of the People’s Vote campaign, said the TUC’s announcement was a sign of the “growing momentum” around allowing voters to have a say on the final deal.
“A botched Brexit threatens the jobs of at least 350,000 trade unionists who work in companies and industries who trade with Europe and would unleash a new round of job-killing austerity in the public services,” he said.
“That is why a growing number of unions, representing everyone from nurses to engineers, have backed a People’s Vote.
“Trade union negotiators would always put a proposed deal back to their members before it can be agreed, and with so much at stake from Brexit for jobs, rights at work and public services it is right that the country gets to have a say on whatever outcome Theresa May negotiates.”