The European Commission today vowed to investigate the flexible working conditions at McDonald’s restaurants throughout the EU, following a successful petition from British trade unions, backed by Labour MEPs.
Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s Leader in the European Parliament, said:
“Theresa May says workers’ rights are safe with her and will be safe after Brexit – well, now we will see. We will see if the UK government backs any proposals from the Commission to tackle abusive zero-hour contracts to give workers more financial stability and security, and we will see if they keep any new EU laws after Brexit.
“Labour MEPs have long been pushing for EU action on exploitative zero-hours contracts which prevent people from having any form of financial security. It is completely unfair that some employees don’t know how much they will get from week to week – they don’t have zero rent, they still have to put food on the table for their kids.
“People cannot be expected to put their life on hold on the off-chance they are offered work, which they desperately need. It is deplorable that workers can have their shifts cancelled at the last minute, or even be sent home after turning up for their shift.”
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, member of the European Parliament petitions committee, added:
“Today we heard the voices of McDonald’s workers from Britain, France and Belgium employed on precarious employment contracts. The Commission has made clear that workers employed on zero-hours contracts should have full employment rights as a result of EU law on part-time workers, and that there is a need to investigate the legality of flexi-jobs under EU law.
“These types of contracts are pernicious. For example, workers’ basic rights are withheld, with no maternity leave, paid holiday or redundancy given. We need to build a Europe-wide picture of precarious employment so we can understand its impact.
“We have proposed an impact study of insecure employment in all EU countries to get a better picture and we will write to McDonald’s to demand an end to these forms of employment in their stores.”
So now we know. Brexit will cost the UK economy almost £60bn over the next five years. Borrowing up. Growth down. Inflation up. Productivity down. And the government still doesn’t have a plan.
Last week’s Autumn Statement laid bare the grim reality of Britain after the vote to leave the EU – a climate of chaos and uncertainty that has been amplified by the government’s inaction, indecision and incompetence.
Foreign companies reluctant to invest in a faltering economy; fewer migrants bringing their skills, talent and industry to Brexit Britain; domestic businesses facing up to the prospect of life outside the single market… if the vote to leave wasn’t bad enough, the government’s mishandling of the aftermath has managed to make things even worse.
Where there is discord, error and doubt, Theresa May and the three Brexiteers have brought not harmony, truth and faith, but division, post-truth and despair.
Last week, following Boris Johnson’s latest tour de farce and Theresa May’s Berlin summit, it was the turn of Brexit secretary David Davis to meet with international colleagues, fix his grin and pretend he knows what he’s talking about, only for them to reveal that he, too, has absolutely no idea what Brexit means.
Davis was in Strasbourg to meet the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, and the leader of the parliament’s biggest political group, Manfred Weber. The result?Fear, farce and confusion.
Weber accused Johnson and Davis of “unbelievable arrogance” and having no idea what leaving the European Union means, calling the foreign secretary’s remarks on Turkish EU membership “unbelievable” and “a provocation”. Davis’s visit, which was surely intended to soothe the burns of Boris’s latest Brussels blunderthon, has somehow succeeded in adding insult to insult.
And so the circus rolls on, with no one in government really having a clue, resulting in our EU partners hardening their stance, making it more difficult for the UK to get the best deal, assuming the prime minister will actually eventually come up with some ideas for negotiation – thus far, in public or private, no plan has emerged.
We are not in a bubble, and this state of paralysis can’t endure indefinitely; as the Autumn Statement showed, Brexit is beginning to bite: £58.7bn of bite – that’s £226m a week. That’s £226m a week that won’t be going to the NHS, or any of our other public services.
Trade with the world, EU and non-EU alike, is set to fall over the next decade. Growth will be 2.4 per cent lower over the next five years. Business investment is set to fall, hitting productivity. The ongoing fall in the value of sterling will hit families’ incomes and add two per cent to prices over the next two years alone. And the cost of increasing capacity in the civil service to deal with Brexit will be £412m.
These aren’t just abstract forecasts, these are people’s jobs, futures and cost of living we’re talking about – the company that doesn’t invest, isn’t able to export its goods and has to lay off staff. This is the reality. And it will be the reality for millions of people unless the government stops dithering, fights to keep us in the single market and reassures the world that we are open for business.
The £58.7 billion Brexit black hole in the UK government’s spending plans, revealed by the Office for Budget Responsibility at yesterday’s Autumn Statement, will get even worse were Britain to leave the Single Market, Labour MEPs have warned.
Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s Leader in the European Parliament, said:
“The chancellor announced there would be an extra £122 billion in borrowing – £58.7bn of which is a direct result of the vote to leave the European Union and the ensuing uncertainty that has been amplified by the government’s lack of response.
“Forget an extra £350 million a week for the NHS – Brexit is costing us an extra £226 million a week, and unless the government gets a grip, fights to keep us in the Single Market and reassure the world that we are open for business things will get worse, much worse.
“Just this week, the president of the German Automotive Industry Association warned the government’s position could damage investment in the UK and called for the UK to end the uncertainty and push to remain in the Single Market.
“Nigel Farage and the Tory Hard-Brexiters are forever banging on about patriotism and what’s best for Britain – but there’s nothing patriotic about leaving the Single Market and driving the economy over the cliff.”
Today, as Theresa May meets the leaders of the US, Germany, France and Italy at a mini-summit in Berlin, Brexit will for once take second billing, after Donald Trump. Nevertheless, just like the British people, these world leaders will almost certainly be looking for something, anything, to indicate that the prime minister has a plan for Britain’s future.
For most of the world, Britain’s face abroad seems to be Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, who are more than happy to give a “running commentary” while the prime minister sticks to her tired tautology, saying nothing in public, whether at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet or the despatch box, leaving parliament and the country in the dark.
The prime minister’s stone-faced silence and weak leadership has led Farage,basking in the tangerine glow of the President-elect, to offer himself as a nightmare chimera of her man in Washington and Trump’s man in Brussels, while Boris has been trundling around Europe revealing what he thinks Brexit means, insulting Italians and talking Turkey.
This week, the foreign secretary told a Czech newspaper the UK would “probably” leave the EU customs union, which could lead to a 4.5 per cent fall in GDP by 2030 and the clogging up of trade through Britain’s ports – £120bn of goods a year are transported on ferries through Dover alone. The re-imposition of significant customs checks will cause major traffic problems near ports, resulting in a reduction in trade volumes.
He also used the interview to say it was a “myth”, “nonsense” and “bollocks” that free movement was a founding principle of the European Union – words that our European partners, with whom we must agree a Brexit deal, might themselves use to describe the statements of Johnson. Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt are all clear that they intend to uphold the four freedoms of the EU: the free movement of goods, services, capital and, crucially, people.
He then reprised his insult-o-rama act, adding Italy to the list of countries he’s offended, getting into a tiff with the Italian foreign minister over the post-Brexit export prospects of Prosecco, Borisplaining to him that Italy and the other 26 EU countries need tariff-free access to us more than we need to them. The very definition of post-truth.
And at the start of the week, he said Turkey should, after all, be allowed to join the EU – the complete opposite of what Leave supporters said during the referendum campaign. At the Tory Party conference last month, Theresa May wondered out loud: “Can Boris Johnson stay on-message for a full four days?” He couldn’t even last a day.
We are now just four months from the prime minister’s own deadline of March 31 for triggering Article 50, yet as the days shorten and the clock ticks down, we are still relying on the foreign secretary’s cavalier approach to diplomacy to get an insight into government thinking. We have still not heard anything from Theresa May herself.
The question arising from today’s summit, then, is will she tell her fellow leaders exactly what is going on? If so then they’ll be getting far more information than the UK Parliament or the British people. Or will they get the same meaningless statements we’ve heard so far – in which case it is likely that she has no plan at all. Whichever is true, it’s time for the prime minister to come clean with the British people.
Blog for Labourlist, 18 November 2016