At the end of the Cambridge hustings for the UCU General Secretary election, Leon Rocha from University of Lincoln UCU raised the question of Brexit (apologies for any errors of transcription, I will be happy to correct them):
So back in 2016, when the referendum result was announced I think many of my colleagues and members were desperately looking to the union for some kind of direction and it seemed like at the time that the branches were largely left to their own devices, to pick up the pieces as a result of the Brexit referendum. And it took two full years for national leadership to come up with a Brexit consultation which had a very low turnout, 28 per cent I think it was because at that point it was too little too late.
The story of the Brexit consultation with members is an interesting one. There was extensive debate on the issue at Congress 2017 (the first Congress after the referendum), but no demand there to take a position or to consult the membership. [Note added on 2 May, the reason there was no such demand is that a call from NEC for a second referendum was defeated.]
In June 2018, the National Executive Committee considered the proposal to consult members on whether or not to support a second referendum. UCU Left reported on that meeting of the NEC, under the heading “More plebiscites from the General Secretary”
The General Secretary took the unusual step of putting a proposal to NEC for voting on, in which members will be consulted on whether UCU should support a second referendum on Brexit. UCULeft NEC members argued that UCU policy is decided by Congress and questioned why the GS is instead taking a proposal to the NEC which appears to bypass Congress less than a month ago. Concerns were also raised about the process of the consultation, how the debate will be informed, how the result will be used and so on but these were ignored, and the GS’s proposal was approved by the IBL majority vote.
As we know, the proposal was accepted, despite the objections of UCU Left members on NEC.