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Big battles ahead on rights, left warns as vote on ‘weak’ Brexit deal nears

BIG battles lie ahead in the fight for workers’ rights and jobs due to a Brexit deal that is “very weak” on protections, socialists have warned.

The government unveiled the deal struck with Brussels on Christmas Eve, just a week before its implementation. 

Today, the Institute for Public Policy Research warned that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU leaves workers’ rights and environmental protections at risk of erosion and will slow Britain’s economic recovery.

The think tank’s assessment said that the bar for proof of breaches of the “level playing field” to safeguard such issues is so high that it will be rarely enforced.

Fears for workers’ rights were exacerbated by the PM downplaying commitments not to weaken protections.

Mr Johnson told the Sunday Telegraph: “All that’s really saying is the UK won’t immediately send children up chimneys or pour raw sewage all over its beaches. 

“We’re not going to regress, and you’d expect that,” he claimed.

But he did acknowledge that the treaty “perhaps does not go as far as we would like” over access to EU markets for financial services.

A government spokeswoman responded to criticisms, saying that ministers are “fully committed” to upholding the “high standards” agreed in the trade deal.

The Communist Party said that the trade agreement is a compromise between the interests of British state-monopoly capitalism and those of German and French monopoly capital — represented by their states and the EU. 

In a statement, party general secretary Robert Griffiths and international secretary John Foster warned that the new deal frees Britain from the sovereignty of the EU — but not from the sovereignty of big businesses. 

“Under the new agreement (Title IV), capital will remain free to shut down operations and invest anywhere in Britain and Europe, regardless of job losses, regional inequalities and the requirements of balanced economic and social development,” the statement said.

The CP called on the labour movement and trade unions to begin a “united struggle for popular sovereignty at all levels in face of a wider economic and social crisis that is already reaching unprecedented proportions.

“Big battles lie ahead in the fight for jobs, incomes and public services,” the statement said. “Free-trade agreements between Britain and other countries which include provisions for greater privatisation of public services or for incoming investors to overturn the democratic policies of the central and devolved parliaments must be resisted.”

MPs will vote on the deal on Wednesday, and with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer ordering his MPs to vote in favour, it will most likely be approved by Parliament. However, reports have suggested that some shadow ministers are poised to resign in order to defy a three-line whip during the vote.

Unions have warned that workers’ rights need “levelling up” in the deal.

GMB acting general secretary Warren Kenny said: “For too long jester Johnson has been playing to the political gallery over our departure from the EU. It is now time for him to address the economic and jobs reality of this decision.

“He must give workers and business leaders the clarity and support they have lacked for the past five years.

“If the government is serious about building back better, then they need to build back better in the UK. That means levelling up on workers’ rights.

“There can be no more excuses, no more hiding behind the EU for government inaction.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that while the deal is “better than nothing,” she warned that it will not protect jobs and “puts hard-won workers’ rights on the line.” 

She said: “As we come out of the pandemic, we’re facing a crunch point for jobs and living standards. 

“This deal is on the Prime Minister’s head – it’s his responsibility to make sure working families don’t end up worse off.  

“Now the PM must make good on his promise to level up Britain. And he needs to act fast. There can be no more pointing the finger at the EU.”

Ms O’Grady called on the government to deliver an industrial strategy for decent work, with investment in jobs and green industries in parts of the country that need it most. 

“Ministers must also urgently build on this deal to overcome the barriers to trade and higher production costs many sectors will face which puts jobs at risk,” she added. “And we will not accept a race to the bottom on rights.” 

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