The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents more than 200,000 industrial and service workers in the UK, has criticised the government’s response to the Brexit vote.
“There’s been a lot of talk about how much the Government is prepared to take on, but that’s a bit misleading,” said Joanna Reid, the union’s chief executive.
Ms Reid, a member of the Government’s Trade Policy Committee, said that the government had to start “coming to grips with the fact that they’re going to be in the position of having to accept huge numbers of jobs going overseas”.
The Government has been under pressure to explain its position on the Government shutdowns, which have left businesses unable to pay their bills.
The Department of Trade and Industry has admitted that “the Government may not be fully in control of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations”, as the UK is unable to maintain its existing trade relationships with the EU, despite Brexit.
In a letter to the Business Secretary Michael Gove, the ITC warned that the Government would be “negligent” to “ensure the continuation of the existing trade relationship with the UK” if it failed to act on the Brexit bill.
It added: “If the Government does not immediately commit to the continuation or continued operation of its existing relationship with UK exporters and exporters of the UK will be left in a situation where they are not able to continue with their existing business as normal, which will have significant negative impacts on their ability to attract the capital and staff that they need to continue to operate their businesses in the future.”
The ITC said that in the face of this threat to the existing relationship, “the only alternative would be to leave the UK and face the prospect of leaving the EU altogether”.
Brexit Minister Greg Clark confirmed that the UK was committed to remaining in the EU and would not be negotiating with other countries outside the bloc.
Mr Clark said that while the Government had been “working hard” to ensure the UK retained a free trade deal with the bloc, “there is still uncertainty”.
“We’ve been in discussions with other partners, we’re continuing to work on a free-trade deal with other EU countries, we’ll have to sit down with the European Parliament to discuss a free trading deal.
We’re not going to negotiate free trade deals that don’t actually exist,” he said.
This article was amended on 10 January 2018.
An earlier version referred to the EU’s Brexit Secretary, Michael Gavrielatos.
This has been corrected.