Brexit: Theresa May accused of 'bribery' with promise to protect workers' rights

Theresa May was accused of more “bribery” as she promised to protect workers’ rights after Brexit.

The Prime Minister faced fierce criticism over her latest bid to woo Labour MPs to back her deal.

Labour and the unions claimed that workers and MPs were in danger of being “hoodwinked”.

They warned that Tory hardliners could in future force a weak PM to “slash and burn” protections.

But Mrs May hopes her announcement will address fears over a race to the bottom after the UK leaves the EU. 

Her plans include giving MPs a say over whether the Government should accept future EU changes to rights. 

But they stop short of automatically accepting the improvements as some MPs had demanded. 

It comes after Downing Street was accused of offering Labour MPs a £1.6bn “bung” for neglected towns, many of which voted Leave.

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.

The PM’s plans include giving MPs a say over whether the Government should accept future EU changes to rights


“Instead of automatically keeping up with European workers’ rights… the Government is admitting that British workers could see their rights fall behind those of colleagues in Europe. 

“The slash and burn of rights and protections could become reality if the hard right of the Tory Party is allowed to exert pressure on this weak Prime Minister.”

Tim Roache, general secretary of GMB union, said: “The crux of this seems to be that Parliament can make new laws if it wants.

“It can already do that, and Government ministers have been more interested in removing workers’ rights than protecting them.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis added: “Brexit mustn’t mean UK employees become the cheapest to hire and the easiest to fire. 

“No-one should be hoodwinked into thinking that this is a good deal for workers. It isn’t.”

Government insiders predict that up to 30 Labour MPs could be persuaded to support Mrs May in a meaningful vote, to cancel out rebellious Tory Brexiteers. 

The Mirror can reveal that Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick will now back her Brexit deal. 

“I will be supporting the PM’s deal next week. I think anywhere between 15 and 30 of my colleagues could do the same, and there could be more,” he said. 

“What’s happening is that now we’re heading for the last chance saloon and people are looking at the hard options in front of us. It is focusing minds.”

GMB chief Tim Roache says “ministers have been more interested in removing workers’ rights than protecting them”


Labour’s John Mann, one of three Labour MPs who backed Mrs May’s deal in January, described the move as a “significant step forward” which meant “we will compete as the best in Europe, not as the cheapest.” 

Mrs May has committed not to reduce workers rights that are already in place post-Brexit.

However, critics fear she could be too weak to fight the right of her party who want to do just that.

Under her plans, the Government would consult trade unions and businesses on future changes to EU laws.

MPs would then be given a choice on how the Government should respond, rather than automatically accepting the improvements. 

This would include getting a vote on whether to adopt any changes that strengthened protections or standards.

Ministers will also accept two EU workers’ directives already in the pipeline that won’t come into force until after the UK has left.

One introduces new rights on work/life balance such as two months of paid leave for each parent up until children are eight and five days leave for those caring for sick relatives.

The other sets the terms of employment for workers by their first working day and provides more stability for shift workers.

There will also be a single enforcement body to protect vulnerable and agency workers under the proposals.

It would have the power to, for example, enforce holiday pay for vulnerable workers and make sure agency workers are not underpaid.

Mrs May faces an uphill battle to get her deal through the Commons


Mrs May said: “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.”

Business Secretary Greg Clark, who will make a statement to MPs today, admitted “it is a fact” that some were concerned about workers’ rights post-Brexit.

It came as Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay returned to Brussels for further talks with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier. 

There are suggestions the PM hopes to strike some sort of deal with Brussels this weekend, and then unveil new “legal assurances” to MPs on Monday ahead of the second meaningful vote the next day. 

One Cabinet minister told the Mirror they expected to lose that vote, but that if the defeat was lower than 80 then it was “game on” for a third attempt after a crunch EU summit later this month. 

Senior Brexiteers want Mrs May to whip in favour of keeping No Deal on the table if she loses the meaningful vote. MPs would also get the chance to delay Brexit.

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