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25th Jul 2021

British unions warn Cameron over EU referendum

  • Cameron is warned by unions, 'Don't take our vote for granted' (Photo: Number 10)

Leading British trade unions say their members would vote No in an EU referendum if Prime Minister David Cameron undermines employment safeguards in renegotiating the UK’s EU membership, as a new poll shows growing support for a "Brexit".

Delegates of leading unions at the annual TUC congress on Tuesday (15 September) backed a statement warning Cameron not to weaken workers' rights as he renegotiates the UK's EU membership.

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The TUC has traditionally been pro-EU as their members have benefitted from European workers' protection and foreign investment stemming from the UK's access to European markets.

But in recent years unions have become cautious with the EU's handling of the economic crisis with a drive for austerity and its negotiations of free trade agreements.

"We hope that Cameron's efforts to weaken workers' rights will fail," Steve Turner, the Assistant General Secretary of the Unite Union said on Tuesday, "but if they do not, we are issuing a warning to the Prime Minister – you will lose our members' votes to stay in the EU by worsening workers' rights."

Unions are also worried that the Tory government wants to secure a permanent opt-out from the European working time directive that mandates a maximum working week of 48 hours.

Brexit ahead

The unions' warning comes as a poll showed British voters edging towards a Brexit.

The ICM poll - the first since the referendum question was changed to whether voters want to remain in the EU – gives the 'In' campaign just a 3 percent lead over those who want to leave.

It is down from a larger margin of 11 per cent before the change in text.

The poll found that 43 per cent of voters would want to stay in the EU, while 40 per cent would vote to leave.

Another poll showed last week those in favor of leaving the bloc leading by 51 percent to 49 percent.

The ICM poll also showed 17 percent of people are still undecided.

The referendum will be held before the end of 2017.

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