What about workers’ rights? – Burnham, O’Grady and Labour figures give their verdict on May’s big Brexit speech

17th January, 2017 5:32 pm

Frances O'Grady Andy Burnham Steve Rotheram Owen Smith composite image

Andy Burnham says Labour’s team in local government has won a key concession from Theresa May in the fight for a voice in Brexit negotiations.

Ministers will meet with mayors from the regions to discuss what Brexit will mean for them, once May’s elections have been held.

As May was delivering a key speech on the government’s approach to leaving the EU, David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, told Burnham he would meet the new mayors later this year.

Burnham, Labour’s candidate for Greater Manchester mayor, said: “I am surprised but pleased to hear this commitment. The regions cannot be shut out of this any longer.”

“I support reform of freedom of movement, but in a way that does least damage to the economy and in particular the regional economy. The prime minister’s speech today makes specific mention of protecting the interests of Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast and the City of London. But there was no mention at all of the north west of England, Greater Manchester or any English region.”

“Rather than leaving these crucial decision to a London-centric right-wing clique around the prime minister, it is time to open up the debate, give Greater Manchester a voice in it and establish a Brexit committee of the nations and regions.”

Steve Rotheram, Labour’s candidate for Liverpool city region mayor, said: “It is welcome that the Brexit secretary has agreed to meet in York later this year to discuss the government’s Brexit plans.”

“During our meeting last week I suggested that the North of England, in particular the Liverpool City Region, should have a voice at the Government’s negotiating table, as the decision to the leave the EU is likely to define the future of our area for the next generation.”

“If I’m elected in May 2017, I will demand that Brexit Ministers ensure full consideration of the interests of our City Region are at the heart of their exit strategy, as we cannot afford to allow the 1.5 million people across Merseyside and Halton to be left behind again.”

Other figures from across the labour movement have been reacting to May’s speech, with Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, saying: “We are pleased the prime minister has committed to a parliamentary vote on the final deal. But before that vote, we will need to know exactly what the new framework she promised for workers’ rights and jobs will be.”

“Working people are worried they will end up paying the price of leaving the single market. There is real concern that it will be bad for jobs, bad for rights at work, and bad for the living standards of British people.”

“The commitment to protect workers’ existing rights and to build on them is welcome. The best way to do this is for the prime minister to agree that UK workers’ rights will always be as good as, or better, than workers’ rights in the rest of the EU.”

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, said: “May has finally let let her Brexit cat exit the bag but there’s no surprise in finding her pandering to the loony right among her MPs who carry long outdated romantic conceptions about trade and markets that have no foundation in the modern world.  

“Make no mistake, today’s speech signals the Tories have no intention of taking back control of our economy in Britain’s public interest. But they are handing it over to be run in the interests of corporations and big money.”

Last Friday the Tories talked out Melanie Onn’s bill to protect workers’ rights after Brexit – which she said only put the PM’s previous promises on paper. 

Owen Smith, Pontypridd MP and leadership challenger to Corbyn, said on twitter:

Alison McGovern, MP for Wirral South, said on twitter:

May’s big reveal – and the Brexit traps she is throwing down for Corbyn’s Labour party. 

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