News | Published October 28 2019

Leaked “government papers” spark fears over workers’ rights within Labour

The Labour party claims that government papers leaked by the Financial Times confirm its “worst fears” over plans to reduce workers’ rights after Brexit, when the UK will be free to deviate from EU rules and regulations under the new withdrawal agreement.

The documents say that the drafted legal commitments surrounding workers’ rights and environmental standards within the revised withdrawal agreement leave significant “room for interpretation”.

Labour shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman said that the leak was a confirmation of “our worst fears”, calling the Brexit deal a “blueprint for a deregulated economy” which will put an end to “vital rights and protections”.

19 Labour MPs had voted for the withdrawal agreement bill to pass through the House of Commons last week, before the accompanying programme motion for its timetable to pass through parliament was rejected.

The leaking of the papers comes after prime minister Boris Johnson indicated on Wednesday that the UK would commit to maintaining the “highest possible standards” for both the environment and workers’ rights after Brexit.

The Brexit department claimed to have no knowledge of the leaked document, with business minister Kwasi Kwarteng adding that Labour’s claims were “exaggerated”.

Kwarteng told the BBC: “it wouldn't make any sense at all to dilute workers' rights in building that coalition to land the bill.”

"We have said we will be better than our word. We have said our ambition on securing workers' rights will be stronger than the provision of the bill.”

A spokesperson from the Brexit department has also moved to reassure, saying that the government is not planning to “lower the standards of workers’ rights or environmental protection after we leave the EU."

The spokesperson added that the UK already goes beyond minimum EU standards in areas of workers’ rights such as maternity leave and shared parental leave.

In the previous Brexit deal, negotiated by former prime minister Theresa May, the level playing field commitment was included as part of the legally binding withdrawal agreement.

Under the revised Withdrawal Agreement made by Boris Johnson, this is no longer the case, with the UK no longer legally obliged to remain aligned with EU standards on these issues.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
October 28 2019

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