LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Wednesday offer parliament a greater say over changes to workers’ rights laws after Brexit, seeking to woo opposition lawmakers as she prepares to put her EU exit plan to the test next week.
Less than three weeks until Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union, May has yet to secure parliamentary approval of her deal meant to untangle more than four decades of legal, economic and political integration with the EU.
She is using the issue of workers’ rights to appeal to MPs in the Labour Party, seeking their backing at a vote next week when she will ask parliament to approve a repackaged exit deal.
The accord she reached with the EU last year was resoundingly rejected by parliament on Jan. 15.
The government will announce plans to write a promise of improved consultation on post-Brexit workers’ rights into legislation and offer lawmakers, businesses and trade unions a say on whether Britain should match any future EU rights laws.
“After Brexit, it should be for parliament to decide what rules are most appropriate, rather than automatically accepting EU changes,” May said in a statement issued by her office.
“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.”
To win the March 12 Brexit vote, May’s minority government will likely need the support of rebel Labour lawmakers, some of whom could prepared to back the government and ignore their own party’s instructions to block her deal.
Many Labour lawmakers represent areas that voted heavily in favour of Brexit in Britain’s 2016 referendum and fear their party’s new official position to support a second referendum — given the current lack of a parliamentary majority for any sort of Brexit deal — could alienate their constituents.
Labour — which has gone further than May by saying it would automatically keep pace with new EU laws on workers’ rights — described the government’s offer as a “pathetic bribe”.
“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,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s business policy chief.
Trade unions bosses also gave the proposal short shrift, saying it had “changed nothing”.
“For all the talk it’s deeply disappointing that it appears not to have listened to the concerns of trade unions,” Len McCluskey, General Secretary of the Unite union, said on Twitter. “This is reheated leftover announcements. Mistreatment of workers at the hands of greedy bosses will go on.”