Theresa May accepts Grimsby MP's two-year-old workers' rights proposal in bid to stave off Brexit defeat

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 11 Jan 2019

Theresa May has promised to enshrine EU workers' rights into law after Brexit – despite rejecting the same idea two years ago when it was put forward by Grimsby’s MP.

Melanie Onn proposed a new law in 2016 which would ensure British workers could expect the same EU-given rights after the divorce with Brussels but Conservative MPs talked out the bill to prevent it being debated.

Almost exactly two years ago, on January 13, 2016, Tory MPs took it in turns to express their love of radio to ensure Ms Onn's private members bill ran out of time to be debated in the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister, however, has now come round to the idea, after Downing Street confirmed she will back a Labour-led amendment that would see the UK mirror EU rules on paid holiday, equal earnings and time limits on working hours, along with other rights, after Brexit.

Theresa May is set to accept a Labour-led amendment enshrining EU-given workers' rights into UK law after Brexit (Image: Getty Images)

Mrs May is said to hope her backing for the amendment can convince some Labour MPs to support her deal at the crunch Brexit vote on Tuesday, January 14.

Ms Onn slammed the last minute concessions, brandishing them "desperate actions from a desperate Prime Minister"  and saying the Tory leader should have "accepted sensible proposals sooner than 77 days before Brexit".

Shadow housing minister Ms Onn said: "When I brought forward my workers' rights post-Brexit bill, the Tory government were dismissive and repeatedly told me it was unnecessary.

"Now, apparently that is no longer the case. How can we trust anything that Theresa May or her government say?"

The former trade union employee said the PM's backtrack still did not go far enough to satisfy her concerns.

She said: "Unfortunately, the amendment will not guarantee important rights and protections going forward and falls far short of the 'gold standard' of rights for workers that we deserve."

Grimsby MP Melanie Onn said the Prime Minister's concession over post-Brexit workers' rights did not go far enough to satisfy her concerns

As many as 100 Tories – including Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers – could vote against her deal but Mrs May is hoping, by writing workers' rights standards into law, she can persuade around 20 Labour MPs to back her.

Some Labour MPs representing leave-voting seats, including Don Valley MP Caroline Flint and Bassetlaw's John Mann, have welcomed the step. Both MPs proposed the amendment, along with Stoke Central MP Gareth Snell.

Despite the proposal coming from Labour backbenchers, the GMB union dismissed Mrs May's support as an attempt to "buy off MPs".

Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, said: "To be clear – this doesn't guarantee workers a single thing. Any MP who thinks this is enough to make a bad deal good needs to have a serious word with themselves."

It is not only Labour who Mrs May has been attempting to persuade in recent weeks.

It was revealed shortly before New Year that Sir Edward Leigh, the Tory MP representing Market Rasen and Caistor, is to be made a privy counsellor – a role he has coveted for years. Sir Edward has indicated to friends that he could back the PM's deal.

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