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Workers’ Rights

Exiting the European Union – in the House of Commons on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Hugh Gaffney Hugh Gaffney Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

What recent discussions he has had with the Trades Union Congress on the protection of workers’ rights in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Obviously, the Government’s priority is to secure a deal, but it is quite true and correct that Ministers and officials have carried out extensive engagement with trade unions to listen to and reassure them on workers’ rights. In fact, we have workers’ rights standards that often exceed EU standards. Whatever the scenario, the Government have pledged to maintain those workers’ rights, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has committed to giving Parliament, whenever the EU standards on workers’ rights change, a vote to keep up with those standards.

Photo of Hugh Gaffney Hugh Gaffney Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

The Government’s own guidance states that workers’ rights will be maintained at the existing level in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but the TUC and other organisations have expressed concern that future UK Governments could choose not to enhance workers’ rights in line with the requirements of EU employment standards. Does the Secretary of State agree that there should be a dynamic alignment between the UK and the EU on workers’ rights in the event of no deal?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

As I said a moment ago, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has given a categorical undertaking that the House will have an opportunity to vote to keep up with EU standards on workers’ rights as they change. Given the hon. Gentleman’s reference to the TUC, I should mention that Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, has said:

“A second referendum could damage the UK’s democratic fabric.”

That is exactly the voice of the TUC. [Interruption.] Keir Starmer is chuckling somewhat with embarrassment, but that is the position of the TUC.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

I will be supporting the deal because I think that it is in the best interests of our country and will protect our workers, but can the Minister assure me that the Government are committed to making the United Kingdom a gold standard for workers’ rights, not just in Europe but in the world?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

As I said in my earlier answer, the UK is currently a leader on workers’ rights, and there is no reason why that position should change after Brexit. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear on a number of occasions that we do not want to see any diminution—any reduction—in the quality of workers’ rights and protections. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we must vote for the deal, and we must move forward.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Can the Minister assure me that, whatever the way in which we leave the European Union, workers will receive protection that is commensurate with, or greater than, that enjoyed by others across the continent of Europe?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

As I think the hon. Gentleman understands, today the UK enjoys workers’ rights protections which in most cases exceed the EU minimum, and there is no reason why they should be in any way diminished after we leave the EU.