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Community joins Brexit debate at TUC in Brighton

11th September 2016

Community’s President, Brintons carpet worker, Paul Mills, was one of the first speakers in the debates at this year’s TUC Congress. Paul addressed delegates gathered in Brighton, speaking about the impact of Brexit. This is his speech: Paul Mills speaking at the TUC

“Since June 24th our country has been turned upside down. A new Prime Minister, the Labour Party in turmoil, businesses and workers worried about their future. And for our immigrant communities, a worrying rise in racist and xenophobic hate crime.

“But Congress, this was no natural disaster, no act of God. The British people voted for Brexit – including millions of trade unionists. We should be proud that the TUC and most affiliates backed remain, but we desperately need to understand why so many working class communities chose to ignore trade union leaders and voted to leave Europe.

“For too long, we ignored real concerns about the way that immigration changed our local communities. We failed to tackle the argument that said low wages and zero hour contracts were the fault of foreign workers and not the product of a failed economic system.

“But Congress, the vote is behind us, 17.4 million people voted to leave and we have a responsibility to make the best of that reality. Rather than lamenting a failed campaign, we need to get right back out there and defend our jobs, our rights and our multicultural society.

We must protect our members against attacks on health and safety provisions, maternity and paternity rights, paid holiday, and all other rights protected by the EU.

“But Congress, it isn’t just our rights at work under threat – it is our jobs themselves that could disappear. Across the country thousands of workers in different industries rely on the UK being open for business with the rest of Europe. We need to be able to sell our goods and services freely across the continent – and that means retaining access to the single market.

“So Congress, we need to understand why we lost and why so many of our own members thought we got it wrong. And we need to get out there and ensure that Brexit does not become another Tory excuse to take away our rights and turn Britain into a nation that turns our back entirely on our closest neighbours and allies.

“Now more than ever we need the TUC to offer leadership and a pragmatic vision for making Brexit work in the best interests of our members.”