Theresa May is set to propose a draft bill guaranteeing that UK workers’ rights will keep pace with those in Europe in a bid to win over Labour MPs to back her Brexit deal.
Backbench Labour sources said the new bill was likely to be proposed before the next meaningful vote and could include strengthened protections for agency workers and a “regression lock” that would ensure workers’ protections would never slip below European standards.
MPs who have met May over the past few months have made it clear to the prime minister that they needed the guarantees to be made in primary legislation because they do not trust that May will remain in No 10 for much longer.
Those who are in negotiations with the government have insisted that the bill must be tabled and have had at least one day of second reading within the next few months.
Labour MP John Mann, one of the key figures behind the push for legislation, said: “There needs to be a bill produced soon. We aren’t basing anything on a promise, with all due respect to the prime minister. We are doing it based on statute.”
On Wednesday, Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who has also intimated she could back May’s deal, said the right offer from No 10 could win over up to 60 Labour MPs.
“If she were able to come back, and stop this eternal circular conversation within the Tory party and start reaching out to the rest of parliament and the rest of the country and give us those assurances, I think you’d get somewhere between 40 and 60 Labour [MPs] who would be prepared to step forward and say, we’ve got to come together around this, otherwise we leave with no deal,” Nandy told BBC Radio 5 Live.
A Downing Street source suggested that they were not in the final stages of drafting the legislation and that May’s agenda for next week was still very much dependent on a number of other factors.
Trade unions are also understood to have been pushing for the legislation to include an easing of restrictions on union activity. Union chiefs had been seeking more concrete proposals for regulation of the labour market after Brexit and the enforcement of existing law.
“Their desire to bring in seasonal agricultural workers from around the globe, as well as barista visas, really does ring alarm bells,” one union source said. “Our fear is that when workers depend on their bosses for their visas, exploitation is sure to follow.”