RMT leader Mick Lynch has defended his position on Brexit in a fiery clash with LBC radio presenter James O’Brien. The General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers was taking calls from listeners during Mr O’Brien’s 10am to 1pm slot when the remain-supporting presenter raised the topic of Brexit.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) recently warned of the “potential impacts of the so-called retained EU Law Bill”, and Mr O’Brien put that to Mick Lynch, listing the worker’s rights that the TUC considered at risk.
The retained EU Law bill was written to allow for the “restatement, replacement or updating of certain retained EU law”.
It was sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, then headed by Jacob Rees-Mogg, and is currently in committee.
Mr O’Brien put the TUC warning to the RMT leader as being “a direct consequence of the Brexit you supported”.
Mr Lynch began, “Well they’re a direct consequence of having this government” before O’Brien interrupted, “No you can’t have one without the other – it’s this government plus Brexit.”
Mr Lynch went on to reaffirm his belief that any watering down of workers’ rights would be a political decision of this government, not a result of Brexit, saying: “A future government is free to make any legislative changes that it wants and can enhance what we do, and can indeed nationalise public sector services, which you cannot do inside the European Union.
“You have to have liberalisation and competition.”
The programme presenter then accused Mr Lynch of prioritising the nationalisation of the railways “above all else,” whereas Mr Lynch reminded him, “It’s a constitutional matter.”
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The RMT leader then reiterated that workers’ rights were not a constitutional matter and the government did not have to change them.
He described public services as “at risk” because of the Maastricht treaty and other measures.
While Mr Lynch refuted anyone describing him as an “ardent Brexiteer”, he did say that the RMT has “a belief that the country should set its own laws”.
The general secretary also said the RMT would “campaign for a new Workers’ Rights Bill under a future government” should any changes to existing rights be made.
When asked how the RMT would campaign in a hypothetical future referendum, Mr Lynch declined to answer, saying they would “consider the position on the balance sheet.”
In 2016, the RMT set out what it referred to as “six key reasons for leaving the EU.”
The statement accused the EU rail policy of seeking to “entrench rail privatisation and fragmentation” and attacking “trade union rights, collective bargaining, job protections and wages.”
The then-general secretary Mick Cash said at the time, “RMT is proud to stand up for the tradition of progressive and socialist opposition to the European Union, an organisation wedded to privatisation, austerity and attacking democracy.”
“It would be frankly ludicrous for a union like ours to support staying in a bosses club that seeks to ban the public ownership of our railways, attacks the shipping and offshore sectors and embraces the privatisation of the NHS and other essential services that our members depend on.”
“RMT has set out the six core reasons for our members to vote to leave and we will be campaigning hard on this platform.”