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Frances O'Grady backs second referendum - but RMT warn call could spark 'civil unrest'

CONRAD LANDIN reports from Manchester

FRANCES O’GRADY positioned the TUC to back a second Brexit referendum yesterday, which rail union RMT warned could lead to “civil unrest on our streets.”

The TUC general secretary warned that Britain was at “crisis point,” with the government failing to protect jobs, workers’ rights and peace in Northern Ireland.

She said the TUC “respected” Britain’s decision to quit the European Union, but Theresa May should “take her deal on the terms of Brexit and put it back to the people.”

Speaking on the first day of TUC Congress yesterday, she said: “I want to give the Prime Minister fair warning.

“I am serving notice that, if her deal doesn’t deliver justice for working people, if it doesn’t protect jobs, rights at work and peace in Northern Ireland, then the TUC will throw our weight behind the call for a vote on the terms of Brexit.”

A TUC general council statement on Brexit that pledges to keep “all options on the table” is expected to be endorsed at Congress today.

Rail union RMT said it would vote against this.

“The only vote now that matters is a general election and the sooner the better,” RMT general secretary Mick Cash said.

“The talk of a second vote on the withdrawal terms is a de facto second referendum whichever way you try to dress it up and risks becoming a Trojan horse for civil unrest on our streets.”

Earlier this year, it was reported that British government negotiators had used the threat of economic intervention under Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations.

Top EU officials are concerned that the relaxation of anti-state aid rules could give Britain a competitive advantage, the Observer reported.

Asked by the Star if she was concerned that staying in the EU would limit the ability of a Corbyn-led Labour government to intervene in the economy, Ms O’Grady said this was a “red herring.

“When I look around Europe, it looks like you can have your railways in public ownership, it looks like you don’t have to hand your hospital services to the likes of Carillion to go bust on … It doesn’t have to be that way, actually. There’s plenty that you can do within existing competition if you have the will to do it.”

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