European and UK trade union and business leaders have highlighted the need to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland in an unprecedented joint statement on Brexit.
Speaking ahead of last week’s European Council meeting, the directors of Business Europe and the British employers’ federation, the CBI, joined with the general secretaries of the European Trade Union Confederation and the TUC – Luca Visentini and Frances O’Grady – in a call for urgency in the Brexit negotiations.
“We are calling on the UK government and the EU to inject pace and urgency in the negotiations, bringing about measurable progress, in particular a backstop arrangement to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
“Decisions will be needed in June and October to finalise the withdrawal agreement and the transitional arrangement, and put economic interests and people’s jobs, rights and livelihoods first,” they said.
They cited a range of issues that needed urgent agreement, including “a mechanism for agreeing a mutually acceptable level playing field for workers’ rights.”
The four organisations, which together represent 45 million workers and 20 million employers across Europe, met for the first time in London on 15th June to discuss Brexit.
They said employers and unions had developed a consensus on the need to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, and on the rights of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.
“The cost of disagreement between the UK and the EU would be dire for firms, workers and the communities where they live. Amid uncertain times, we appeal to negotiators on both sides to put jobs and prosperity before politics when seeking solutions that will matter for generations to come,” they said.