Brexit must not mean at­tack on UK work­ers’ rights, John­son warned

Western Mail - - NEWS -

LABOUR and trade unions have warned that Boris John­son’s Brexit vi­sion would re­sult in work­ers’ rights be­ing scrapped.

Shadow Brexit Sec­re­tary Sir Keir Starmer said Mr John­son’s speech had re­vealed the Gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion to “ca­su­ally cast aside” rights and pro­tec­tions when the UK leaves the Euro­pean Union.

The Con­fed­er­a­tion of British In­dus­try in­sisted that firms did not want a “bon­fire of reg­u­la­tions”.

Sir Keir said Mr John­son’s ap­proach would “fur­ther di­vide the coun­try” and put jobs and liv­ing stan­dards at risk.

He said: “This speech un­der­lined the Gov­ern­ment’s real in­ten­tions; a Brexit of dereg­u­la­tion, where rights and pro­tec­tions are ca­su­ally cast aside and where the ben­e­fits of the sin­gle mar­ket and the cus­toms union are ig­nored.

“No­body will be fooled or re­as­sured by the For­eign Sec­re­tary’s empty rhetoric.

“His in­sis­tence on dereg­u­lat­ing our econ­omy is the op­po­site of what busi­nesses and trade unions want to hear.”

TUC gen­eral sec­re­tary Frances O’Grady said: “Peo­ple have learned not to trust Boris John­son.

“In­stead of calm­ing the wor­ries of work­ing peo­ple, he fu­elled fears that he be­lieves essen­tial work­place rights are ‘in­tol­er­a­ble’.

“When he says ‘reg­u­la­tory diver­gence’ he means scrap­ping hard-won rights to paid hol­i­days, equal pay and safety at work. And if that’s his vi­sion, he’s never go­ing to unite the na­tion be­hind it.”

John Fos­ter, the CBI’s di­rec­tor of cam­paigns, said busi­nesses were com­mit­ted to mak­ing Brexit a suc­cess but “ev­i­dence, not ide­ol­ogy, should guide the UK’s think­ing on a close fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with the EU”.

He said: “Busi­nesses aren’t look­ing for a bon­fire of reg­u­la­tion – quite the op­po­site – our aero­space, au­to­mo­tive and chem­i­cal sec­tors, to name a few, all have highly in­te­grated Euro­pean sup­ply chains that ben­e­fit from con­sis­tent reg­u­la­tion.

“And se­cur­ing align­ment of data rules is vi­tal to pro­tect the thou­sands of in­no­va­tive busi­nesses that make up the UK’s £240bn data econ­omy.”

Tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try body techUK’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Antony Walker said: “We do not make the UK more at­trac­tive to the rest of the world by put­ting bar­ri­ers in the way of trade with our big­gest mar­ket.

“Whilst there may be ar­eas where the UK wants to diverge from EU rules in the fu­ture, th­ese are likely to be lim­ited as the gains from diver­gence would have to out­weigh the very sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits of hav­ing align­ment with our clos­est trad­ing part­ner.”

Lib­eral Demo­crat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “Boris John­son is com­pletely de­luded about Brexit.

“This speech wasn’t about the most im­por­tant is­sue fac­ing our coun­try right now, this was about Boris’ am­bi­tions to be­come the next prime min­is­ter, and it prob­a­bly wasn’t much help on that front ei­ther.”

But Richard Tice, co-chair­man of the pro-Brexit Leave Means Leave group, wel­comed the “op­ti­mistic vi­sion” set out by Mr John­son.

He said: “The op­por­tu­ni­ties out­side of the EU are im­mense in terms of trade and the econ­omy as well as by tak­ing back con­trol of our laws, borders and money.

“To achieve this, the Gov­ern­ment must not al­low us to be hand­cuffed to EU reg­u­la­tions and bu­reau­cracy af­ter we leave in March 2019.”

> Sir Keir Starmer

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