Finance / Labour pushes for ‘jobs first’ Brexit deal in final Queen’s speech voting

Labour pushes for ‘jobs first’ Brexit deal in final Queen’s speech voting

Labour will challenge MPs to back a "jobs first" Brexit that delivers the "exact same benefits" of the European single market and customs union in the final round of House of Commons votes on the Queen's Speech.

Jeremy Corbyn said Theresa May did not have a mandate for a "race-to-the-bottom" exit from the European Union after the Tories lost their Commons majority in a disastrous general election.

Labour will hope its amendment to the Government's legislative programme can exploit apparent Tory divisions on whether to prioritise the economy first and foremost in Brexit negotiations.

And it could also allow Labour MPs who support continued membership of the single market and customs union, which is not official policy, to back the party’s position.

The Tory minority government is facing a symbolic hurdle with the final vote on its legislative programme on Thursday afternoon.

But the support it has secured from the DUP’s 10 MPs following a £1 billion deal described by critics as a “bung” mean it should clear the Commons.

Other amendments, including demands for women in Northern Ireland to be given free access to abortion services in England, may also be called.

The wafer-thin majority the Government now relies on means the Prime Minister will head straight back from a meeting with other world leaders in Berlin to Parliament so she can walk through the voting lobby.

Mrs May is joining German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders to discuss plans for the G20 summit the following week.

It is believed they will discuss how to put pressure on US president Donald Trump over his refusal to sign up to an international agreement on climate change, as well as the stalled trade deal between America and the European Union.

Labour has claimed Mrs May’s programme for government is in “tatters” following her drubbing at the ballot box.

Its wide-ranging amendment reproduces many of the policies in its manifesto and Mr Corbyn urged MPs of all sides to support it, claiming Mrs May had no mandate for continued austerity.

Despite Labour finishing 55 seats behind the Tories in the election, Mr Corbyn said: “The Conservative programme is in tatters following the public verdict at the general election.

“Theresa May does not have a mandate for continued cuts to our schools, hospitals, police and other vital public services or for a race-to-the-bottom Brexit.

“Labour will fight these policies every step of the way.

“Labour won support in every region and nation of Britain for our jobs-first Brexit approach and our policies that would transfer wealth, power and opportunity to the many from the few.

“We invite MPs from across the House of Commons to take on board the strength of public opinion and desire for change in our country and vote for our amendment to bring forward policies to invest and improve public services, and put money in the pockets of the many, not the few.”

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams criticised the Tories for “capitulating” on lifting the public sector pay cap amid confusion on Wednesday about whether Government policy had changed on the issue.

Hopes were raised that it could be scrapped in a briefing a Number 10 source gave to reporters, and after Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon became the latest in a string of ministers to suggest that the Government will have to consider whether to persist with the cap, which is currently due to remain in place until 2019/20.

But the PM’s official spokesman later played down suggestions that a review of the 1% cap was in the offing.

Ms Abrahams criticised the Tories for then voting against a Labour amendment to the Queen’s Speech, which called for the cap to be lifted.

“They didn’t deliver, that’s the whole point,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We had a vote yesterday and they completely capitulated and they do not recognise the real harm and difficulties that people are facing now.

“We talk about the public sector pay cap, we know from TUC and Resolution Foundation the difficulties – so, for example, nurses, teachers, firefighters at the centre of the Grenfell (disaster) and terrorist attacks, they will be earning £2,500 less than in 2010 in the next couple of years.

“This is unacceptable.”

Ms Abrahams defended Labour’s commitment to a Brexit that delivers the “exact same benefits” as membership of the single market and customs union, saying it was a phrase used by Brexit Secretary David Davis.

“So we are holding the Government to account; they have promised this and we want them to deliver, and if they don’t we’re ready,” she said.

Gareth Fuller/PA Wire


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