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Unions and Europe: what are the choices?

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A Quick Note by Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations, University of Bradford

It has become evident that the referendum on 23 June this year is a referendum on whether Britain’s membership of the European Union should be maintained regardless of the deal David Cameron struck with the EU member countries on 19 February 2016 (on freezing on in-work benefits for EU citizens working in Britain; stopping all payments of child benefit going to children living outside Britain; safeguarding to protect countries outside the eurozone against regulation made by those inside it; and not being covered by deeper EU integration). This is, therefore, not the referendum Cameron intended to have. He sought to narrow the referendum question posed by the terms of his agreement. As such, the questions facing unions and their members are even more profound and searching than could have been expected. Boycotting, active abstention or not taking a position (as some unions did in the Scottish independence referendum) are not then quite so credible options in this referendum as the contours of the debate are clearly only about ‘in’ or ‘out’ per se with the choice faced being one of working out which is the least worst option.

The Quick Note is available to read here   JRFEuropequicknote