25th Sep 2022

Brown set for battle with unions over EU treaty vote

UK prime minister Gordon Brown is facing an increasingly tough battle with trade unions who are threatening to break ranks with the government stance and call for a referendum on the EU treaty.

Two unions on Wednesday (22 August) tabled motions for the annual Trade Union Congress (TUC) taking place next month calling for a public vote on the document.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The unions are traditional backers of the ruling Labour party (Photo: Notat)

The motions are an embarrassment to Mr Brown, with unions being traditional backers of the ruling Labour party.

So far he has sought to play down the revolt and has remained firm on the government line of parliamentary ratification rather than a poll.

Speaking after a meeting with his German counterpart Angela Merkel, Mr Brown indicated that he thought trade unions would not go through with their threat.

"Let's see what the TUC do. My own view is that the TUC when it meets will support the government," said the prime minister.

"We believe the proper way to discuss this is through detailed discussion in the House of Commons and the House of Lords and I believe parliament will pass the legislation."

But Mr Brown is likely to face strong resistance. Unions remain angry over London's decision at an EU leaders meeting on the treaty in June to secure an opt-out from an extensive citizens rights charter.

The charter sets out social rights, including the right to strike.

"GMB members are sick and tired of being treated as second class citizens in Europe. If these rights are good enough for French, German and Spanish workers then they should be good enough to apply to UK workers too...", said Paul Kenny, the General Secretary of Britain's General Union (GMB), according to the Guardian.

The GMB and the rail workers union (RMT) have tabled two motions on the EU treaty. The RMT motion also urges an active campaign against the document.

A third union – Unison - has said it supports both motions, reports Reuters.

The renamed EU treaty is set to be finalised by the end of the year. Mr Brown said before the June treaty negotiations that if London's goals were secured then it would not be necessary to have a referendum.

After the summit, London proclaimed victory saying it had secured all its red lines mainly to do with the rights charter and criminal justice.

However the opposition Conservatives have since mounted a strong campaign to say the document is similar to the original rejected EU constitution, on which Labour had promised to have a referendum.

So far Mr Brown has not succumbed to the political pressure. But he faces two major tests in September – first at the trade union congress on 10 September and then two weeks later at a Labour Party Conference.

A recent poll showed that he could lose up to a quarter of voters from his own labour party if he does not put the new EU treaty to a popular vote.

Brown under pressure over EU treaty

UK prime minister Gordon Brown could lose up to a quarter of voters from his own labour party if he does not put the new EU treaty to a popular vote, a new survey has suggested. Meanwhile, technical meetings on the EU treaty are to start again next week.

EU seeks crisis powers to take control over supply chains

The Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) introduces a staged, step-by-step, approach — providing emergency powers to the EU Commission to tackle any potential threat which could trigger disruptions or shortages of key products within the EU.

Testimony from son rocks trial of ex-Czech PM Babiš

In a fraud trial relating to €2m in EU subsidies, Andrej Babiš son testified his signature on share-transfer agreements was forged. He claims his father transferred the shares to him without his knowledge, making him a front man for scheme.

‘Rushed’ EP secretary-general pick sparks legal complaint

The appointment has been criticised for being rushed — Alessandro Chiocchetti only takes up his new position in January — and for overlooking other candidates, whose experience in administration management was seen as more substantial.


How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.


Background reads: Italy's election

With Italy heading to the ballot boxes this Sunday, let's take a look at what EUobserver has published that can help understand the country's swing to the (far)-right.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us