Unite members want a People’s Vote on Brexit - People's Vote

Unite members want a People’s Vote on Brexit

Members of Unite strongly support a People’s Vote on a final Brexit deal, as well as rejecting the policy approach to this issue taken both by their union and the Labour Party, according to a new poll.

YouGov’s survey of almost 1,000 members of Britain’s biggest trade union conducted in the last week for the People’s Vote campaign, comes ahead of Unite’s policy conference in Brighton next week where grassroots branches have submitted no less than 13 pages of motions on Brexit.

The findings provide clear evidence that workers are turning decisively against the bad Brexit deal emerging from political machinations in Westminster and botched negotiations in Brussels. The poll also refutes the idea that such workers are determined to cut immigration at any cost, with a large majority preferring to stay trading freely in the European Single Market when presented with the real choice that Brexit entails.


Baroness Margaret Prosser, a former deputy General Secretary of the old T&GWU which merged into Unite, said: “It’s becoming increasingly clear the Tory Government is hell-bent on a bad Brexit deal for British workers that will damage jobs, public services and the future of young people. We are already seeing worrying signs about the impact on Airbus, carmakers and other key sectors of the economy. In these circumstances, workers look to our union to stand up for their interests.”

An ex-president of the Trades Union Congress, Lady Prosser added: “This is not about playing games in Westminster but about real lives that are going to be affected by Brexit.  There are growing calls for a People’s Vote on a final Brexit deal and they far beyond traditional party politics. I support people being given a democratic right to have their voice heard on Brexit before a final decision is taken to leave the EU. Unite has an opportunity to back that too this week – we should stand up for members and speak up for a People’s Vote.”


Key findings of the poll show that Unite members:

  • Support a People’s vote on the final Brexit deal by a margin of 57 to 34 per cent (even 24 per cent of those who voted Leave agree with this demand).
  • Prefer trading freely without tariffs in the Single Market to controlling immigration by a margin of more than two to one – 61 to 30 per cent.
  • Believe Britain will be worse off outside the Single Market by a margin of 58 to 21 per cent.
  • Think that they and their family will suffer if Britain leaves the Single Market – with just 14 per cent believing they be better off.
  • Say leaving the Single Market will be bad for jobs by a margin of 57 to 18
  • Know Brexit is being botched – with just 1 per cent saying the process is going very well


Although the poll shows the leadership of both Labour and Unite are still more trusted than the government, it will provide scant comfort for them this weekend.

Asked who they trusted to make the right decisions on Brexit, 20 per cent of Unite members said Theresa May compared to 29 per cent for Jeremy Corbyn – but fully two thirds of Unite members said they did not trust the Labour leader very much on this issue. Unite members say they oppose the approach taken by the party by a margin of 52 to 29 per cent.

Unite’s leadership has closely allied itself with that of the Labour Party and has been relatively silent on Brexit despite growing warnings on jobs and investment from firms like Airbus, BMW and Nissan in recent days.

Labour is currently committed to a hard Brexit policy of leaving the Single Market and ending Freedom of Movement. And, as recently as this week, Jeremy Corbyn declined to back the growing demand for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal that had seen more than 100,000 people take to the streets of London last weekend.  

Unite’s General Secretary, Len McCluskey is a close ally of Mr Corbyn. But just 3 per cent of his members in the survey this week said the union should base its policy on what’s best for the Labour Party, with 84 per cent saying it should be driven instead either by what’s best for the country of Unite members. Slightly less than a quarter of those surveyed think Unite is doing a good job fighting for its members’ interests on Brexit.

Ahead of Unite’s policy conference in Brighton next week has seen branches submit no less than 13 pages of motions on Brexit, the bulk of which depart from Labour’s official position of leaving the European Single Market and abolishing freedom of movement. Four motions from industrial branches in the East and West Midlands, as well as airline workers, call explicitly for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.

One motion, submitted by West Midlands car workers is typical, states: “Only now have voters started to see through the initial referendum campaigns and truly understand the implications and costs of leaving the EU. The final negotiations of UK Brexit terms cannot be left for parliament alone to agree upon because the facts presented to the voting public have changed so much since the referendum vote. The British electorate must ultimately have the final say on any EU Brexit deal.”


Notes to Editors: 

1.     The poll was conducted by You Gov between June 27 and June 30 among 913 Unite members.

2.     Details of motions submitted to Unite’s policy conference can be found here. http://unitealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Final-Agenda-Unite-Policy-Conference-2018-1.pdf