Theresa May accused of fresh Brexit 'bribe' over workers' rights pledge

Posted On: 
6th March 2019

Theresa May has been accused of mounting a fresh attempt to "bribe" Labour MPs into voting for her Brexit deal with a promise of new workers’ rights measures.

Theresa May will make a new pledge on workers' rights
Credit: 
PA Images

The Prime Minister will announce plans to give MPs the right to decide whether to enforce future EU changes on workplace rights and standards after the UK has left the bloc, as part of the withdrawal agreement.

Trade unions, businesses and the relevant select committees of Parliament will also be consulted when such situations arise, she will add.

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The proposals come just days before the PM tables a fresh meaningful vote on her Brexit deal in a bid to get it through the Commons ahead of the planned exit date on 29 March.

But Labour said the move on workers' rights is another “bribe”, just days after the party levelled the same accusation at her over the announcement of a £1.6bn fund for towns.

Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said: "Hot on the heels of their pathetic bribe for left behind towns, here comes the Government’s attempt to bribe workers to back their botched Brexit deal.

"Instead of automatically keeping up with European workers’ rights, and using that as a floor as Labour has pledged, the government is admitting that British workers could see their rights fall behind those of colleagues in Europe.

"This is utterly unacceptable and workers and trade unions will not be fooled."

The pledge was also dismissed as "window dressing" by the TUC, the umbrella group representing Britain's trade unions.

Frances O'Grandy, body's general secretary, said: "These are flimsy procedural tweaks. They come nowhere close to ensuring existing rights are protected. And they won't stop workers' rights in the UK from falling behind those in the rest of Europe.

"What's more, there's nothing to stop a future right-wing government tearing up this legislation altogether.

"MPs must not be taken in by this blatant window dressing. Our hard-won rights are still under threat."

'WEALTH OF OPPORTUNITIES'

Making her announcement, Mrs May will say: “We have as a country led the way in workers’ rights while maintaining a flexible labour market.

“The enormous success of our jobs market and the wealth of opportunities for workers across the nation have long been underpinned by the policies and standards that exceed the minimums set by the EU and that has been driven by successive governments of all parties.

“After Brexit it should be for Parliament to decide what rules are most appropriate, rather than automatically accepting EU changes.

“When it comes to workers’ rights this Parliament has set world-leading standards and will continue to do so in the future, taking its own decisions working closely with trade unions and businesses.”

Ministers say two directives will come into force following the post-Brexit transition period, including one with new rights around paid leave for parents and carers and another which sets the terms of employment for workers by their first day in a job.