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Prorogation of Parliament

29 August 2019 | last updated: 5 March 2020

I am writing to all members about UCU's response to the latest developments regarding Brexit.

Prorogation of Parliament

On Wednesday the prime minister instructed the Queen to prorogue parliament for most of the period to mid-October. This will reduce the amount of time available for MPs to try to prevent a no-deal Brexit and scrutinise the government's overall approach to Brexit.

Click here to read a statement by UCU about this attack on our democratic institutions, and its implications for the sectors we work in and the country as a whole.

Advice on no deal planning for non-UK EU citizens

The prorogation came shortly after an announcement by the home secretary that the government intends to end freedom of movement immediately on 31 October in a no-deal scenario. This approach is causing unacceptable uncertainty for non-UK EU citizens about their future rights - especially those who have overseas travel plans or families in more than one location, or those whose record of residency in the UK may otherwise make it difficult to stay in the country.

I have written to the prime minister, the home secretary, and the education secretary to clarify the government's intentions in this matter. UCU has also prepared a template letter for members to send their MPs and representatives in the devolved administrations asking them to seek similar clarification. 

In the meantime I would urge non-UK EU citizens to apply to the EU settlement scheme as a matter of urgency. As of this month, just over 1 million eligible people had applied to the scheme, but that leaves over 2.7 million who have not. I know that many of our members have not yet applied to the scheme - because it is poorly administered; because the trauma of losing their citizenship rights is difficult to contemplate; or because they are hoping for an outcome that makes it unnecessary. However, until we have clear assurances on the future rights of EU citizens, I encourage eligible members to apply as soon as possible.

What else can UCU do?

As you know, UCU conducted a consultation of members last year, in which 89% of respondents indicated their preference that the government hold a public vote on any withdrawal agreement once it has been negotiated. Given the situation we are in now, with no withdrawal agreement proving acceptable to parliament and a no-deal exit on the horizon, it will be up to UCU's national executive committee (NEC) to decide what to do next. 

The NEC next meets on Friday 11 October, although an emergency meeting can be called before then. You can find details of the NEC here, by using your membership number to login. Please endeavour to contact your elected NEC reps, especially those in your region, either directly or through your branch. Outline your concerns to them and let them know what you would like UCU to do.

At the same time, please do get in touch with your branch to ensure they have already written to your employer, calling on them to produce a joint statement committing to:

  • defend the status of all EU staff and students - and their families
  • help affected staff with legal advice and support.

Take action

The current government is bringing us to the brink of a disastrous no-deal Brexit. We will feel the effects of Brexit as keenly as any other part of the workforce. Just as trade unions have had to respond to new legislation that seeks to limit our power, we also have to be ready to resist any Brexit outcome that undermines our working conditions. Whatever happens before or after 31 October, UCU members need to lead the efforts to hold the government to account and protect our rights as workers and citizens.

I will be speaking at the demonstration against the prime minister's prorogation of parliament at Downing Street, this Saturday at 12 noon. Other events will be happening all across the UK, and branches and regional committees are already making plans to attend them. 

For months we have been angered and frustrated by the lack of progress in negotiations and the inability of parliament to hold the government to account. Now is the time to channel that frustration and work towards something better. Politicians will not take notice unless we make it clear that there is massive, serious, and engaged opposition to their plans. 

Best wishes

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary 

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