Theresa May to reach out to Labour 'by backing Brexit workers' rights demands'

Written by Matt Foster and Kevin Schofield on 10 January 2019 in News

Theresa May is expected to offer concessions to Labour MPs after Keir Starmer warned postponing Article 50 date "may well be inevitable"

Theresa May - PA

Theresa May could make a last-ditch effort to save her Brexit deal by backing guarantees on workers' and environmental rights demanded by Labour MPs, it has emerged.

The Mirror reported that the PM - who last night began face-to-face talks with opposition politicians - is set to support an amendment calling for existing EU protections to be enshrined into law after Britain leaves the bloc.

The move by Number 10 could see up to 20 Labour MPs - mainly in Leave-backing seats - vote in favour of the agreement, with Bassetlaw's John Mann telling The Mirror it would make the deal "more attractive".

He said: "There are going to be other things as well needed, but this is one very significant one."

Mann added: "It’s very encouraging if government is listening to what the people are saying but also it removes one of Labour’s objections.

"In terms of trade unions, this is the big issue, along with jobs - that’s why unions have been very hostile to a no-deal.

"The second is guarantees for workers’ rights and conditions. If we have a guarantee that works on workers’ rights and conditions, then that’s very significant."

But a Labour source said any such assurances from the PM would not be "legally binding" so the party as a whole is unlikely to support it.

They told Holyrood's sister site PoliticsHome: "We will look at any proposal that is put forward to improve Theresa May’s bad deal.

"However, this amendment would mean MPs supporting the Government’s deal based on promises that are not legally binding. It also doesn’t guarantee the UK won’t fall behind on important rights and protections.

"Protection of rights is also one element of this deal. The government has still refused to listen to Labour’s demands for a permanent customs union and a strong single market deal."

The amendment to May's Brexit agreement - which will be voted on by the Commons next Tiesday - has been tabled by Mann, as well as Don Valley Labour MP Caroline Flint and Stoke Central's Gareth Snell.

It also calls for MPs to be able to demand that Britain mirrors EU standards if they improve in the future.

Flint said: "Given the Government cannot rely on the hard Brexiteers on their side, they have to reach out across the House to Labour."

The Mirror reports that any concession on rights would be announced by Business Secretary Greg Clark should Commons Speaker John Bercow choose the amendment for debate.

News that May has begun talks with Labour MPs is likely to spark fresh anger from Conservative Brexiteers, who have repeatedly warned her against trying to pass a deal with Labour votes.

The meetings came as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn repeated his call for a general election to break the deadlock over May's Brexit agreement.

In a speech today, he will say: "A government that cannot get its business through the House of Commons is no government at all. So I say to Theresa May: if you are so confident in your deal, call that election, and let the people decide.

"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."

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer meanwhile said last night that extending Article 50 - the two-year process that formalises Britain's exit from the EU - “may well be inevitable now”.

"We’re going to have to have a discussion, I think next week starting after Tuesday about where we go next and we’re all going to have to enter that in the right spirit," the frontbencher told MPs.

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