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Government considering move on workers’ rights to win Brexit deal support

UK News | Published:

The Prime Minister could support an opposition amendment to retain EU rules on pay and conditions after withdrawal.

Prime Minister Theresa May (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Theresa May is considering backing calls by Labour MPs to safeguard workers’ rights after Brexit in order to try to get her controversial EU withdrawal deal through the Commons.

With time running out for the Prime Minister to shore up support for her controversial exit plan, Government sources told the Press Association that supporting an opposition bid to enshrine EU standards was being considered.

The amendment would keep EU rules on pay and conditions, health and safety issues, plus environmental standards.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)

The move came after Mrs May suffered another embarrassing Commons defeat on her EU withdrawal agenda.

MPs insisted that if the PM’s deal is voted down next Tuesday, she must set out a “Plan B” to Parliament within three sitting days.

The controversial decision by Commons Speaker John Bercow to allow a vote on the move provoked fury among many Tory MPs and led to calls for his resignation.

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Labour MP John Mann, one of the people behind the amendment on workers’ rights, told the Daily Mirror that Government backing for the proposal could make the PM’s plan “more attractive”.

He said: “If we have a guarantee that works on workers’ rights and conditions, that’s significant.”

However, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon made clear there was little enthusiasm for the idea among the Labour leadership.

“When it comes to the crunch I don’t trust the Conservatives on workers’ rights,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

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“Even the noises that are being made in the press by the Conservatives don’t mean any such agreement would be legally binding when it comes to protecting workers’ rights.”

The comments came as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was set to say that a general election is the most “practical and democratic” way to “break the deadlock” in the Commons over Brexit.

Mr Corbyn will use a speech in Yorkshire on Thursday to repeat that Labour will vote down the PM’s Brexit deal.

He will say: “If the Government cannot pass its most important legislation, then there must be a general election at the earliest opportunity.

“To break the deadlock, an election is not only the most practical option, it is also the most democratic option.

“It would give the winning party a renewed mandate to negotiate a better deal for Britain and secure support for it in Parliament and across the country.”

The intervention comes in the wake of shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer telling the Commons that extending Article 50 – keeping Britain in the EU beyond the scheduled exit date of March 29 – “may well be inevitable now”.

He said the move may be needed because the Government had handled negotiations with the EU badly.

Elsewhere, Nick Timothy, Mrs May’s former chief of staff, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the Prime Minister would not willingly take the UK out of the EU without a deal.

He said: “No 10 is trying to give the impression that no deal remains possible but, after many years of knowing the Prime Minister, I do not believe that she would willingly take Britain out of the EU without a deal.”

Meanwhile, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is expected to call on Mrs May to avoid a no-deal Brexit when they meet for talks in Downing Street on Thursday.

Following the recent conclusion of an EU-Japan free trade agreement, Mr Abe is expected to restate his country’s commitment to an ambitious post-Brexit bilateral arrangement with the UK.

Japan is the UK’s second-largest source of non-EU foreign direct investment and Britain’s largest export market outside the EU, US and China.

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