David Cameron has joined forces with the former TUC general secretary Brendan Barber to issue a warning to Britain’s workers that breaking away from the European Union would pose a “triple threat,” to jobs, wages and prices.
The Conservative prime minister and former trade unionist accept they were unlikely political allies, but said the seriousness of the issues at stake in June’s referendum meant, “it is right that the rules of conventional politics be temporarily set aside”.
Writing for the Guardian, Cameron and Barber, now the chair of conciliation service Acas, cite evidence from independent experts, including the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of England, that leaving the EU would cause a debilitating “economic shock”.
They argue that weaker economic growth would threaten jobs; while less open trade with the rest of Europe would hit productivity and depress wages.
“It’s clear there will be long-term damage for our country’s productivity, caused by the second-rate, more restrictive trade relationship we would have to try to negotiate if we left our home market of 500 million consumers,” they argue.
“Less open trading leads to lower productivity. It doesn’t matter whether you work in a car plant, a factory, a shop or an office: the likelihood is that you would take home less money at the end of every month than if we stayed in Europe,” they warn.
Meanwhile, the selloff of sterling on foreign exchange markets which many analysts believe would follow Brexit, as investors took fright at the economic risks, would push up the price of foreign goods in the shops.
“A weak pound means more expensive goods and higher inflation, pushing up the prices of the weekly shop, clothes, petrol – anything that we import from other countries. So we are likely to see the cost of living going up, just as wages are being squeezed and jobs lost. That is the threat for families already struggling to make ends meet,” they say.
The joint call to Britain’s workers came after the government made a series of concessions on the controversial trades union bill, which would have blown a hole in the unions’ funding by preventing them from deducting membership fees directly from workers’ pay packets.
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