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UK trade union calls for debate on Brexit harm

By JONATHAN POWEL in London | China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-06 09:17

European Union and British flags flutter in front of a chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 9, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

The head of one of the United Kingdom's largest unions has called on the opposition Labour Party to demand a debate on the economic harm inflicted on working people by Britain's exit from the European Union, known as Brexit.

Mounting evidence indicates that Brexit is contributing to inflation and prompting jobs and investments to move overseas, reported The Observer newspaper.

Gary Smith, the general secretary of the GMB union, which has more than 500,000 members across the UK and is one of Labour's major financial supporters, told the newspaper that politicians across all parties have been hesitant to acknowledge the negative impact of leaving the EU on employment opportunities and living conditions within working communities.

"There has been a lack of honesty and a fear among politicians to face up to the impact that Brexit is having in terms of the economy," said Smith. "In terms of what the future looks like, it needs to start from a position of honesty."

The GMB leader referred to concerns raised by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca about its future investments in the UK after Brexit.

He expressed his apprehensions that the company might transfer production to the EU if it discovered more advantageous trading and tax conditions available there.

The Observer said that Smith's comments illustrate unions' desire to influence the development of Labour's economic policy ahead of the next general election, which is expected to take place next year.

Shortcomings highlighted

The newspaper said the remarks will resonate with pro-EU Labour backers and supporters regarding the party's hesitation to highlight Brexit's shortcomings or propose a more definitive strategy for a closer relationship in the event of a victory in the next election.

A few prominent Labour strategists are concerned about distancing the numerous supporters who voted in favor of leaving the EU during the 2016 referendum, the newspaper reported.

Labour leader Keir Starmer last week promised he would not reintegrate the UK into the EU or its single market, in an article written for the Daily Express newspaper that sought to reassure its predominantly Conservative-supporting readers.

Simultaneously, he conveyed that the Brexit deal negotiated by former prime minister Boris Johnson's government had proved unsuccessful and would require reevaluation.

"Britain's future is outside the EU," Starmer said.

"Not in the single market, not in the customs union, not with a return to freedom of movement. Those arguments are in the past, where they belong," he said.

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