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Andi Fox Speech to Open Labour, Leeds, October 20, 2018

26 October 2018

Thank you Chair. Thank you to Alex for inviting me to address you tonight.

I am, as the chair said, a member of Labour's National Executive Committee. It’s been my great privilege and good fortune to serve our Party at this exciting time in it’s own history. Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has changed political history. We are bettering the Tories by battering their bankrupt ideologies. We are disrupting their narratives of market fundamentalism. We have won the argument that austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity.

But I am afraid we have not yet won the Battle of Brexit. I speak tonight in my own capacity and as a member of my own union, the Transport and Salaried Staff Association.

I’m proud to say my union was ahead of the post-referendum curve. We got very quickly that it was OK to Love Corbyn but to Hate the Tory’s Brexit. And like a sturdy tug boat, little TSSA has pulled by our conviction our large movement behind us into the tidal space so that now when the tide is turning against Brexit we can set sail even those who voted for it away from the dangers - that others have talked so eloquently about tonight - away from danger they were never warned they would be voting for voting for.

My union has never held any illusions in the European Union. It is not and never has been a socialist nirvana. Far from it. We recognise that but, at the same time, we understood that workers rights in Britain are currently safer, better protected by EU regulation than anything the Tories could ever have in store for us.

A Tory Brexit, as we’ve ve come to see these past two years, is not just the culmination of their 40 year war with Europe. Brexit for them will be a final victory for the Thatcher project. Her project which launched this long 40 year war. A war not just on workers’ trades union rights. But on our public, our social, our health and our welfare rights the rights of our entire working class.

Any Tory deal or no deal on Brexit will mean Thacher’s side out on victory parade. They will celebrate with a bonfire of EU regulations. Wealth will be ever more concentrated upwards to the few. Any deal or no deal Tory Brexit will be the funeral pyre on which they burn is left behind of our welfare state.

Jacob Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage should be called out for what they are. And they are: counter revolutionaries, enemies of the people, warriors against the welfare state. Brexit is their final fantasy triumph over social progress begun by Labour’s 1945 government and entrenched further by the Wilson governments of the 1960s Labour’s way, Corbyn’s way of redistribution amongst the many, of a more equal society, is everything these conscienceless Conservatives stand against.

It will also be their triumph over women’s rights and all other equalities agendas. I am, as you can see, the one woman on this panel tonight and so it falls to me to account for gender. And I’m sorry to say, the future Theresa May’s Brexit has in store for women in Britain is an even less pretty sight than her dancing.

You may remember the photo at the start of Brexit, the British and European negotiating teams posed for a picture to mark the start of negotiations. There wasn't a single woman in the photograph. So this panel is doing better than that negotiating team. The truth is that you are more likely to have a beard in the Department for Exiting the European Union. This lack of Lack of diversity its common. But that it is so apparent in the Department of Exit gives me real concerns about the imperilled future of women’s rights in Britain should we exit the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

And the one woman who claims to have power, Theresa May, has shown the only rights she is out to retain is her right to be Prime Minister. For when it comes to gender equality, the care of this clergyman’s daughter is only that she is more equal than others.

Let me read you the words of Sam Smithers of the Fawcett Society which lobbies for gender equality:

“Without the European Court we would not have had any of the more progressive decisions taken in the past 20-30 years related to maternity rights,
part-time workers rights, pension rights. If we don’t have the European Court, we’re losing a progressive force in our jurisdiction."

In an independent report commissioned for the TUC ahead of the referendum in 2016, Michael Ford QC stated “all the social rights in employment
currently required by EU law would be potentially vulnerable” if Britain were outside the EU. But he noted women’s rights are particularly at risk:

“It is difficult to overstate the significance of EU law in protecting against sex discrimination. A history could be written based on the theme
of progressive decisions of the ECJ correcting unprogressive tendencies of the domestic courts.”

These “progressive decisions” cover issues such as equal pay for work of equal value, the right to protection from discrimination in or because of pregnancy,
equal pensions and increased sanctions and compensation for workplace discrimination. These are values our Labour Party was designed by the Trades Union movement to protect. They were hard won by all of us. And they are not going to be taken away from us without a fight.

And it’s not just women’s right, it’s men’s rights, it’s childrens’ rights, it’s the right of all all of us to be treated with human dignity, with respect and with social justice
that we are now battling for. It’s why we cannot let out country slide any further into this Tory Brexit mess.

It’s s why we must rage back against this Tory war. A war which as I’ve said is not just with Europe, but a war that is very much their Tory class war against our families futures, our jobs, our rights to move freely and to love and live where we choose in Europe.

We want our families to have freedom to roam, learn, work even just holiday in Europe. In return for that Most Brits are now happy that Europeans share the same rights to come to our islands. Tory Brexit would turn us into a fortress. A Fortress Britain presided over by Rees Mogg. It doesn't make me just shudder. It makes me sick. And it makes me remember Jo Cox MP. Slain not so far from here. A Yorkshire lass who was inspired by the fact that despite their differences people have more in common than that which keeps them apart. May Jo rest in peace. May her message of solidarity prevail as we enter a critical few weeks in the fight against the Tories.

My preferred wish now is getting to a general election - sooner rather than later - and with a great Labour win. A Labour government seizing control of Brexit negotiations from the Tories is the dream. But whilst we fight for that we must also fight the Tories every inch of their mewling, screaming way for a Final Say on any Brexit deal - or no deal - to be returned to the people.

That campaign is already underway - but we need your help to win it. Trade unions, TSSA included, are with Another Europe is Possible, and Hope not Hate
building pressure on 40 or so Labour MPs who we think are most likely to vote for the Tory deal. We can’t let betrayal like this happen.

Labour’s manifesto for the many is better than Brexit. It is the only plan to take back control of of rail, mail, utilities and water from the foreign governments and corporate power elites. Making Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister will out the British people back in their own driving seat. Fighting any Tory Brexit deal this autumn
is the best way to do this. With just a few weeks left I invite every one of you here tonight to be part of making the difference that will get Jeremy elected.

And we can make it by doing what our movement does best, by taking to the streets and demanding the Tory’s hand Brexit back to us, to we the people for us to have OUR final say.

The weekend of 27th/28th October is the next weekend of action. We will be Organising and building events mobilising local people in the seats of MPs who may possibly vote with the government. We need you to join us. So we take back control of Brexit for all our working people. So we take back control of Britain’s future from the Tories. So that we take back control of government for Labour. So that we can finally rebuild Britain for the many, not the few.

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