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5 July 2017

Unison conference: Socialist Party argues for a socialist Brexit

Mia Hollsing, Unison conference delegate (personal capacity)

One of the important debates at the 2017 Unison conference was about Brexit. One year on from the referendum, there were a number of motions and amendments about what form Brexit should take and what role the union should play.

The Unison leadership was forced to acknowledge that the Leave vote was not purely about immigration, but in large part a vote against the establishment and austerity. Socialist Party members played an important role in this debate. There was also a debate about the single market, as the leadership backs continued membership.

I argued against this, explaining that the single market is a neo-liberal free trade area based on the so-called 'four freedoms' - freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital.

Race to the bottom

I am an EU citizen and I respect the right of people to live and work where they choose, but I explained employers must not be allowed to use migrant labour as a way to drive down terms and conditions (as has happened under EU rules, and this would continue if we remain in the single market).

I also explained that freedom of movement of capital is what allows employers to move production abroad to increase their profits and that the rules around freedom of movement for goods and services forbid nationalisation of services.

I pointed out that Corbyn's programme for nationalisation of the railways, Royal Mail and energy companies would therefore be illegal under single market membership, and that we would also be unable to save the steel industry by nationalising plants such as Port Talbot in Wales.

What we need is not a 'soft' Brexit or a 'hard' Brexit, but a socialist Brexit and this means leaving the single market. These arguments were well received by conference, winning the debate. However, unhappy at the vote, the president took it another two times until they got vote they wanted.

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