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EU referendum: Remain arguments economical with truth, Queen’s debate told

By Margaret Canning

Published 15/06/2016

The mainstream Brexit debate is "one arm of big business arguing with another arm of big business," the pro-Leave trade unionist Carmel Gates has claimed.

Ms Gates, the leader of public service union Nipsa, spoke at a left-wing EU debate at Queen's University Student Union last night.

Paul Murphy TD speak at QUB debate
Paul Murphy TD speak at QUB debate

She told a packed room that her union - which has voted in favour of leaving - had taken "a lot of flak" for its stance.

Umbrella trade union the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) had already indicated it was pro-Remain when Nipsa took its vote last month. Nationally, the TUC had said it is pro-Remain.

She said: "TUC leader Frances O'Grady has joined other great socialists like Mark Carney of Bank of England in their leaflet to say we are better off in, but ICTU took a position on Brexit before their conference and before they even asked their affiliates or even had a proper opportunity to discuss it.

"We abstained and at our full conference we decided we wished to leave."

She dismissed Remain arguments from other trade unions as "very limited and spurious, and economical with the truth". Ms Gates said it joined railway workers union the RMT in advocating a Leave vote to protect public services. "The EU embraces privatisation, and we stand with the RMT in the fight to protect services."

"Workers rights have been won by trade unions, and the EU is trying to take everything back from us. French laws are taking away workers rights and Greek workers have been faced with wage austerity," she said.

She added that in the EU, "labour is cheap and can be moved around Europe at the whim of capitalism".

She said Brexit would not be a panacea.

Phil Kelly, a member of the executive of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, said the debate was to decide whether those "who oppose war, poverty and environmental destruction" were better off in the EU.

He said the vote excluded "co-workers, neighbours and comrades from the EU" as non-UK citizens are not able to vote, and he was under no delusion over what the EU stood for.

Pro-Remain Green Party councillor Ross Brown said: "The Council of Ministers is made up of directly-elected politicians. It happens now that they are mainly centre-right but what we must do is elect progressive parties.

"Just because we now have a right wing Conservative government doesn't mean we must now abolish the House of Commons."

Paul Murphy, a socialist TD in the Republic's Dail and former MEP, summed up the EU as "an EU of millionaires, of war, of poverty and racism".

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