Trade unions boss dismisses Theresa May Brexit deal ‘tweaks’ after Downing Street talks

Posted On: 
24th January 2019

The leaders of Britain’s trade unions have dismissed Theresa May's attempts to break the Brexit deadlock following a meeting in Downing Street.

The TUC's Frances O'Grady leaves 10 Downing Street
Credit: 
PA Images

The Prime Minister met with Frances O’Grady, Unite boss Len McCluskey, the GMB’s Tim Roache and Unison chief Dave Prentis in an effort to win support for her beleaguered deal.

It comes after Mrs May vowed to try and reach a consensus on the way forward following the resounding Commons defeat of her agreement last week.

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Speaking after the meeting, TUC general secretary Ms O’Grady said Mrs May had not given the guarantees on jobs or workers’ rights that the movement had called for.

“Tweaks aren't enough - we need substantial change to the whole deal,” she said.

“But even after a catastrophic defeat, her red lines haven't shifted, and the threat of no deal hasn't even been taken off the table.

“And if she won't change her position, how can we change ours?”

The union leader added that the PM should “stop playing to the bad boys at the back of the class” in order to get her deal through and commit to stopping a no-deal outcome.

The decision of the union leaders to negotiate with Number 10 comes after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on his own MPs to snub any meeting with ministers until crashing out without an agreement is ruled out.

However Mr McCluskey, whose union is a major source of funding for Labour, said Mr Corbyn had been “vindicated” by avoiding talks with the PM and praised the way in which he has managed Labour’s splits on the issue.

Speaking after the Downing Street meeting, the Unite boss said the PM needed to make “concrete” proposals such as extending Article 50 for three months, or ruling out no-deal before he believed Labour MPs could back any agreement.

“It’s all about actions. Warm words actually mean nothing,” he told the BBC.

“There has to be a concrete indication of action that the Prime Minister will take and then we’ll see whether there’s the prospect of proper, meaningful negotiations.

“An extension of Article 50 would demonstrate belief that she needs more time to thrash out a deal, an indication that she will not pursue a no-deal would relieve tens of thousands of my members’ concerns at the moment and that’s what she should do. 

"She should be brave enough to do that and then negotiations and discussions can take place to see if we can resolve this."