Unions are preparing to show leadership in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, which has become more likely, according to Fórsa’s incoming Senior General Secretary Kevin Callinan.
He was speaking at last week’s ICTU biennial conference, where An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also told delegates a disorderly Brexit was growing more likely. Mr Varadkar said his Government was ‘building up fiscal buffers’ to help sectors like agriculture and manufacturing in the event that Britain leaves the EU without a trade deal.
Kevin took a swipe at the “reckless and the frivolous politicians in Northern Ireland and Westminster” who advocated a no-deal Brexit at a time when political failure and the increasing precariousness of work and living standards were coming together, fatally undermining the stability of Northern Ireland’s economy and society.
“Given the hapless and volatile performance we’ve witnessed in Westminster over the past three years, it would be foolish to predict the outcome of the Brexit saga. But it is clear that the danger of a ‘no deal’ outcome, whether by default or design, has become a very real one.
“If that comes to pass, Congress will rightly be expected to show leadership in a time of great peril for the living standards and rights of the people on this island, and for the peace process we have worked so hard to achieve and advance. We don’t want to see this happen, but we are up for the challenge if it does,” he said.
Kevin told delegates that Congress would keep working to protect the backstop in the Brexit withdrawal agreement. “The Good Friday Agreement must be implemented in full, and that includes a Bill of Rights, which remains outstanding after all this time. The fine constitutional balance that holds out the right to be British or Irish – or both or neither – is also enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.
“The reckless and the frivolous politicians who flirt with the notion of a ‘no deal’ Brexit – be they in Northern Ireland or Westminster – run the risk of undermining this and all other aspects of the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.
Kevin also called for the establishment of a social dialogue forum in Northern Ireland, saying it could help political parties work together effectively in the region’s power-sharing structures.