Theresa May today pledged to give MPs the power to decide whether the UK should follow EU rules on workers’ rights after Brexit in a bid to win Labour support for her plan.
Speaking in the Commons, the Prime Minister doubled down on her commitment to keep high standards relating to employment law, environmental protections and health and safety once the UK leaves the EU – promising a vote for MPs every time Brussels made changes in those areas.
The pledge came four days after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a “dynamic alignment” on rights and protections in a letter setting out the conditions for him backing May’s Brexit deal.
While the Prime Minister moved to woo Labour MPs, she did not set a date for when Parliament would get another meaningful vote on the Brexit deal.
May said the government’s “work continues” in a bid to get changes to the withdrawal agreement achieved by the EU in November.
She added: “The talks are at a crucial stage. We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House requires and deliver Brexit on time.”
Last night it emerged that the PM's chief Brexit negotiator, Olly Robbins, was overheard in a Brussels bar saying MPs will be forced to chose between May's deal and a delay to Brexit. ITV reported that Robbins told colleagues the fear of an extension to Article 50 (the process by which the UK leaves the EU) will focus MPs' minds.
MPs will vote on Tursday on a motion supporting the government’s attempt to get changes to the Irish backstop plan – which would see the UK locked in the EU’s customs union after Brexit in the absence of a trade deal.
Parliament will then get another vote on February 27 if a new agreement has not been reached by then. It is at this moment that MPs will try to exert maximum pressure on May to seek an extension to the talks.
The City of London Corporation reacted with despair to May’s statement, which offered little sign of progress on trying to persuade the EU to reopen negotiations.
Catherine McGuinness, the Corporation’s policy chair, sad: “The last grains of sand are slipping through the hour glass as another day is lost in Brexit limbo."
Meanwhile the British Chamber of Commerce today issues a list of 20 questions it claims remain unanswered for businesses in the light of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
Tariff costs, roaming charges and additional red tape are among the matters raised, and the group’s Director General, Adam Marshall, said companies could be “hung out to dry” unless they get the information required.
A Government spokesperson said: “The best way to support our economy, protects jobs and provide certainty for businesses and individuals as we leave is to back the deal we have agreed with the EU. We are focused on securing the necessary changes to ensure the deal passes through Parliament.
"In January alone, government carried out around 250 engagements with businesses and others on no deal. We have published more than 100 pages of guidance for businesses on processes and procedures on the border and contacted 145,000 businesses directly about how they can prepare."