Morning Briefing: PM's flimsy workers' rights pledge - cancer tests delayed - Scotland and Wales unite
Another day, another attempt by the government to woo Labour MPs backfires. Theresa May’s post-Brexit package on workers’ rights has received short shrift from trade union leaders.
“History will not be kind” to Labour MPs who voted for the government’s deal based on the “nods and winks from a lame duck prime minister”, warned the GMB’s Tim Roache. Meanwhile Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, wrote off the proposals as “blatant window dressing”.
May is promising to enshrine existing EU employment rights into UK law after Brexit, and for Parliament to have a vote on adopting new EU rules in the future. The TUC has written this off as “flimsy procedural tweaks”. The concern is that these pledges won’t stop UK workers’ rights falling behind those of other countries or protect existing rights from being torn up by a right-wing government in the future.
Another problem is a chronic lack of trust towards a government that has previously been no friend of trade unions. If the prime minister were serious about protecting these rights, why not incorporate them into the EU withdrawal agreement in the first place, unions ask. As part of an international treaty, rights would be much harder to jettison at a later date.
The prime minister’s package also promises a single new watchdog to protect vulnerable and agency workers. But there are concerns that if the new labour market body takes over the roles of the Low Pay Commission and ACAS then two of the historic gains of the Labour Movement – a statutory body dedicated to abolishing unfair low pay and a body working to secure effective trade union negotiations – will disappear.
It’s true that more must be done to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable workers. But this isn’t some new post-Brexit problem. Tackling it has nothing to do with whether the UK is in or out of the EU. But what has this government - or indeed David Cameron’s coalition government before it - done to crack down on unscrupulous employers?
Theresa May has fired another blank in her efforts to woo wavering Labour MPs to backing her deal. Like her attempted “bribe” to Labour constituencies earlier this week, with its piffling small amounts of money and clumsy delivery, this pledge on rights is likely to do more to discourage Labour MPs from backing the prime minister.
We now know that Brexit will leave workers worse off. It’s only fair to demand working people are involved - not ignored – in this decision. Any trade union member would expect to have the final vote on any deal their leaders negotiate. That’s why thousands of trade unionists will be joining our demonstration on March 23 – now is the time to put it to the people and demand our right to have a real say on our future.
Quote of the Day
“European laws have made working in the UK safer and better. Brexit mustn’t mean UK employees become the cheapest to hire and the easiest to fire.”
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison
Tweet of the Day
Read the full report at HuffPost.
Wrecking of car industry continues
Yesterday brought warnings from four of the UK’s biggest motor manufactures - BMW, Toyota, PSA and Rolls Royce - about the impact of Brexit on investment and production. It has also been speculated that Nissan are about to cut production at Sunderland. The succession of bad news from the motor industry shows the scale of the damage Brexit is already wreaking on our economy - and it is only just beginning.
Forcing Theresa May’s deal on the British people won’t bring clarity or closure for businesses or anyone else. All it guarantees is successive UK governments will be going back and forth to Brussels in endless wrangling about product standards, customs duties, workers’ rights, emission limits, rules of origin – the list is endless. Any deal on these terms will merely be the starting gun on arguments that will not stop for years or decades to come. If you’re a car maker - or any other sort of business - that’s not the sort of environment you want to be in.
Graphic of the Day
Delays to cancer tests ‘inevitable’
Hospitals are likely to experience delays to cancer testing and treatment regardless of the result of next week's Brexit vote, reports the BBC. A spokesperson for the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) said it was now “inevitable” that the Brexit process will mean delays to treatment. Guidance sent to doctors recommends keeping workloads lighter in the run up to Brexit, to provide more “wriggle room” if medics suddenly can’t get hold of radioisotopes needed to diagnose and treat patients.
With bookings already going in doctors’ diaries, Theresa May’s tactics of running Brexit down to the wire is already being felt. The RCR says it understands the government sees the threat of no-deal Brexit as a negotiating tactic, but warned: “Putting patients' health at risk for the sake of getting a good Brexit deal is a difficult priority to balance.”
Video of the Day
Scotland and Wales unite to oppose Brexit deal
An important message was delivered by Scotland and Wales yesterday when, in a first in 20 years of devolved politics, both the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly backed the same Brexit motion. It re-emphasised opposition to the government’s deal, rejected no deal and urged an extension of the Article 50 deadline. Nicola Sturgeon, leading the debate in Holyrood, said Westminster had been given “long enough to enable a better path to be taken” and that the Scottish and Welsh governments had been “brought together by our dismay, bordering now on despair, at the UK government's handling of Brexit”.
Scottish and Welsh voices will be heard again in 17 days time, alongside those from every other region and nation of the country, at the Put It To The People march in London on March 23.
It's clear that the only way forward is a People's Vote. Now is a crucial time to get involved with the campaign. Sign up to volunteer today.
Top Brexit comment
Andrew Graham: The truth is out about Brexit – but there is a narrow road back to sanity (Guardian)
Philip Johnston: Theresa May's gamble has backfired - her MPs would sooner extend Brexit than accept her awful deal (Telegraph)
David Miliband: As foreign secretary I argued against an EU referendum. Now I back one (Guardian)
Today, Wednesday 6th March
|09.30||DUP's Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson at Commons Northern Affairs committee|
|10.00||Liam Fox at Commons trade committee|
|11.30||Northern Ireland questions in Commons|
|12.00||Prime Minister's Questions|
Tomorrow, Thursday 7th March
|10.00||Commons questions to attorney general Geoffrey Cox|
|-||EU home affairs council meeting in Brussels|