Boris Johnson is ploughing ahead with getting his Withdrawal Agreement for Brexit through parliament. So any voter who backed him for that can rest somewhat assured for now. But will Johnson give working people the continued rights he promised? Or the policies necessary to ensure the world is still safe and liveable for their kids and grandchildren?
In short, probably not. Because Johnson has already made an apparent u-turn on both of those things.
Going, going, gone
One main sticking point for Labour throughout the three years of Conservative-led negotiations on Brexit was the government’s resistance to committing to continued workers’ rights and environmental protections. Theresa May eventually conceded on these demands. Then Johnson came along and removed what Labour had secured from May in his Withdrawal Agreement. After a backlash, Downing Street put out a statement, saying:
We recognise that MPs want to see… hard won rights protected, not weakened by our departure from the EU and we are happy to ensure this is the case.
Both the public and parliamentarians should be in no doubt that as we leave the EU we will maintain and increase these protections both via the Withdrawal Agreement and future legislation.
At the time, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for employment rights Laura Pidcock said:
This empty gesture is not worth the paper it’s written on. If Boris Johnson was committed to workers’ rights and environmental rights he wouldn’t have spent the last few weeks removing legally-binding commitments from the Withdrawal Agreement.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
We will present a bill which will ensure we get Brexit done before the end of January. It will reflect the agreements made with the EU on our withdrawal.
To be clear, Johnson’s promise on workers’ rights and environmental protections wasn’t in “the [EU] agreements”. He made it after he’d reached that agreement with the bloc. So, in answer to the question of whether UK citizens will retain these standards in the future, the spokesperson’s comments probably translate as: No.
The suspected u-turn by Johnson shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. Back in October, the Financial Times revealed a leaked Brexit paper that suggested the government was looking to reform these protections after Brexit.
The paper, which was drafted by the government’s Brexit department DexEU and contained “input” from Downing Street, said the post-Brexit drafting of commitments on workers’ rights and environmental protections “leaves room for interpretation”. It also suggested the UK planned to ‘interpret’ any Level Playing Field (LPF) commitments – where involved parties agree to comparable standards – made in a future EU trade deal ‘very differently’ to its European counterparts. As the BBC‘s Faisal Islam pointed out at the time:
The memo shows that within Whitehall, weakening these provisions was a key part of the renegotiation.
But not abiding by real LPF commitments is likely to be a deal breaker for the EU. Officials have already said that a tariff-free deal will be dependent on agreement on the UK government signing up to keeping comparable standards on workers’ rights and environmental protections.
So all those working class voters who backed Johnson may well get a withdrawal from the EU by January 2020, and a full departure from the bloc by December 2020. But there could also be a tariff-full, rather than tariff-free, deal, which raises prices and costs jobs. And we could see dramatic changes to rights at work such as holiday pay, sick pay, protection against discrimination, working hours, and break allowances.
Merry Christmas everyone.
Featured image via YouTube – The Sun
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?