POLITICS
24/01/2019 15:41 GMT

Theresa May To Woo Unions On Brexit Deal With Workers' Rights Legislation

The PM met Unite boss Len McCluskey in Downing Street on Thursday.

Reuters

Theresa May is attempting to win support from unions for her Brexit deal by preparing to secure workers’ and environment rights in law.

The legislation could be included in an environment bill rather than folded into the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The prime minister’s spokesperson said on Thursday: “We are looking at ways we can make it clear our commitment to uphold worker rights.”

But union leaders who met the PM on Thursday appeared unmoved by the discussions.

Emerging from No. 10 this afternoon, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said he needed more than “warm words” from May.

“An indication she will not pursue a no-deal would relieve tens of thousands of my members,” he said.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said she had not been convinced by her meeting with May.

“The PM hasn’t given us the guarantees we need on jobs or workers’ rights,” she said.

“Tweaks aren’t enough - we need substantial change to the whole deal. But even after a catastrophic defeat, her red lines haven’t shifted and the threat of no deal hasn’t even been taken off the table.”

Business secretary Greg Clark attempted to woo Labour MPs last week when he accepted an amendment designed to strengthen rights.

“It is important to reflect that the standards of workers’ rights we have in this country not only meet, but often far exceed EU standards,” he told the Commons as it debated the PM’s Brexit deal.

“We have no intention of lowering our ambitious environmental protections after we leave the EU.”

Clark added: “We must ensure that we can move our economy forward and strengthen our workers’ rights and environmental protections, recognising the House’s ambition to establish this country, now and in the future, as one of the most successful and admired in the world in terms of the economy, workers’ rights and the environment.”

The meetings with union leaders came as one of Britain’s largest manufacturers, Airbus, issued a stark warning of the potential damage to jobs from a no-deal exit.

The aerospace giant’s chief executive, Tom Enders, branded the government’s handling of EU withdrawal a “disgrace” and warned the company could pull out of the UK if Brexit undermines its ability to compete.

There are just 64 days to go until the scheduled date of Britain’s EU withdrawal on March 29.

The Commons will vote on Tuesday on May’s next steps in the Brexit process, after her deal was roundly rejected in a historic defeat last week.

MPs are attempting to seize control of what happens next by tabling amendments to the prime minister’s latest proposal.

Momentum appears to be growing behind a bid by Labour’s Yvette Cooper to delay Brexit if no deal is agreed by February 26.