TUC head advises UK parliament to 'hold their nerve'

Frances O’Grady urged MPs to secure article 50 extension before letting go of control over Brexit

MPs who have taken control of parliament to stop Boris Johnson from forcing a no-deal Brexit have been urged by the leader of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to “hold their nerve” until after 31 October.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary, called upon parliament not to budge until an extension to article 50 has been secured.

It follows a standoff between parliament and the government over Johnson’s plan to leave the EU on 31 October, come what may.

Speaking at the first day of the TUC’s annual congress, O’Grady said MPs must force an extension before relinquishing control of the Brexit process.

“My advice to MPs is this: when you’ve got your opponent on the ropes – don’t let them off. Hold your nerve until 31 October and call Boris Johnson’s bluff.

“So once we have that extension locked down, then let’s have that general election on our terms – not his. Boris Johnson is not above the law, he doesn’t have a divine right to rule,” she said.

O’Grady added that Johnson was motivated by political power and fulfilling a hard-right agenda.

“We know what kind of man Boris Johnson is, and the people he gets to do his dirty work. We don’t trust him. He would sell livelihoods down the river because all he cares about is political power,” she said.

O’Grady said events in the coming days and months would shape jobs and living standards for a generation, while leaving without a deal would be a “disaster” for workers, especially those in the NHS, civil service, the food industry and ports.

“A no-deal Brexit means higher fuel prices and a more expensive weekly shop, it will destroy good British jobs, [mean] less money for the NHS and medicine shortages for cancer patients,” she added.

“For hard-right Tories, Brexit has always been part of a bigger ideological project. A no-deal Brexit would pave the way for a low-tax, low-regulation Britain that works for hedge fund managers but offers nothing for working people,” O’Grady added.

(August 24, 2019)  The story breaks

The Observer breaks the story that Boris Johnson has sought legal advice on closing parliament for five weeks 

(August 27, 2019) Leaks spread

Other media organisations begin to receive leaks that Johnson will make a statement on prorogation

(August 28, 2019) Visit to Balmoral

Three privy counsellors, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, travel to Balmoral to tell the Queen of the prorogation plan. Cabinet ministers are informed by conference call

(August 31, 2019) Protests and protestations

Tens of thousands protest against prorogation. Cross-party group of MPs steps up preparation for blocking no deal when parliament makes a brief return

(September 3, 2019) Parliament returns

Parliament returns and the prime minister loses six votes in six days. MPs vote to prevent a no-deal Brexit, and refuse Johnson's attempts to force them into a general election.

(September 6, 2019)  Gina Miller case fails

Legal campaigner Gina Miller vows to continue her “fight for democracy” after the high court dismissed her claim that the prime minister acted unlawfully in giving advice to the Queen to suspend parliament at a time of momentous political upheaval.

(September 9, 2019) Parliament dissolved

Parliament is dissolved amid chaotic scenes as some MPs hold up signs saying they have been silenced, try to prevent Speaker John Bercow leaving the chamber, and  sing the Red Flag.

(September 11, 2019)  Scottish court ruling

The court of session in Scotland rules that Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament for five weeks was unlawful. The case will go to the supreme court.

(September 17, 2019)  Supreme court hearing

The Supreme court begins three-day hearing to join together all the appeals and legal challenges to the prorogation.

(September 24, 2019) Supreme court finds prorogation was unlawful

The judges unanimously decided that prorogation was justiciable, and it was in the power of the court to rule on it. They additionally found that the prorogation was unlawful, as it had the effect of preventing parliament from being able to carry out its constitutional functions. The court found that the prime minister’s advice to the Queen was unlawful, void and of no effect. Their unanimous judgement was that parliament had not been prorogued.

(September 25, 2019) 

Parliament goes back to work.

The TUC will debate their own Brexit policy on Sunday afternoon, with some of the biggest unions still split over the direction of the Labour movement.

While many unions would like the TUC to push for a second referendum in which they campaigned to remain, others, including the fire brigades’ union, the communication workers’ union and Unite’s leader Len McCluskey have argued against this.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s leader, is due to address the congress on Tuesday, followed by the shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer’s appearance on Wednesday.


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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