The publication of the Tory’s Repeal Bill today was greeted with a barrage of criticism and vows to have it struck down in Parliament.
Unite warned that the Prime Minister’s pledge to protect workers’ rights using the bill – designed to transfer EU laws into British ones after Brexit – would not happen under the Conservative’s 2017 manifesto pledge to eliminate so-called “red tape”.
Labour are set to collide with the Repeal Bill because it does not transfer the EU’s human rights charter into UK law, an issue shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has made clear is a red line. The Liberal Democrats have flagged the same issue and vowed to vote against the bill.
With only ten DUP MPs to prop up her government and a number of Tory rebels, Theresa May may struggle to get the bill passed when it is voted on this autumn.
The Scottish and Welsh governments described it as a “naked power grab” and said they will recommend their parliaments, whose consent the UK government needs to avoid a constitutional crisis, vote against it.
Unite called for Theresa May to reassure the UK’s workers that their rights will not be savaged by a combination of hard-line deregulators on the Tory benches and her party’s determination to deliver on its 2017 manifesto “red tape” pledge.
The Tory manifesto states: “We will continue to regulate more efficiently through the Red Tape challenge and the one-in, two-out rule.”
Leader of Unite, Len McCluskey said: “Unless, Theresa May can confirm that her government has dropped its wrong-headed manifesto policy of one-in, two-out, then the public cannot trust it to deliver a repeal bill that will be safe from the hardliners on the Tory benches, and her claims to be on the side of working people are simply a nonsense.”
Unite is seeking a 66 percent voting threshold for the removal of any EU legislation protecting workers and living standards to be established, amid fears that elements of the Conservative party are determined to create a low wage, low protection UK out of Europe.
The two-thirds threshold is a precedent already established as it is required to call a general election out with the fixed five year term parliament.
McCluskey added: “We were promised that coming out of the EU would mean taking back control. Instead it looks like it is the government who will be taking all the control, taking unprecedented powers to sweep away vital laws and protections at a whim.
“But there are too many on the Conservative benches itching to use Brexit to destroy a whole raft of protections and who will waste no time in attacking vital laws like the working time directive. A measure that is not ‘red tape’, but essential protection for workers and the public alike. Our roads are safer, for example, because under EU law lorry drivers must rest.”
Unite argues that the threshold is a vital corrective to the ‘Henry VIII’ powers that allow government to sweep away laws without parliamentary consent.
Meanwhile Labour is set on a collision course with the bill because it does not transfer the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which guarantees basic rights on working, liberty, justice and social freedom, into British law.
Officials in Whitehall said the charter does not need to be transferred because the rights exist elsewhere in British law.
However Keir Starmer sounded a warning in April over the charter, saying “it is wrong simply to leave it out” of the Repeal Bill.
TUC general secretary Francis O’Grady said: “The PM promised to protect all workers’ rights after Brexit. But there is nothing in this Bill to stop politicians shredding or watering down our rights in the future.”