Labour and the Lib Dems have slammed Tory MPs for voting down a string of attempts to improve the lot of EU citizens, refugee children and workers’ rights after Brexit .
Ten amendments to Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill were defeated in the last two days as the law prepares to sail through its final Commons stages tonight.
If they’d been put last year, the MPs’ amendments might have stood a chance of passing. But because Boris Johnson won an 80-seat majority, they were all now more or less doomed to fail unless backed by the government.
Among 10 amendments formally defeated on Tuesday and Wednesday were a bid to force more accountability on ministers over whether there would be a pact to let child refugees join family in the UK.
The government also defeated bids to give EU citizens the right to appeal over their status to a tribunal, and to match future EU laws on workers’ rights.
And they blocked a bid to give MPs a key vote on the future trading relationship with the EU.
Ministers have insisted they are already committed to helping these groups – and say they’ll bring forward a separate Employment Bill to deal with workers’ rights issues.
Brexit minister James Duddridge said: “There’s no suggestion that this Government would propose, or this Parliament would allow, a change or regression in workers’ rights to make them lower than is currently required by the EU law.”
And Brexit Minister Robin Walker said the police on child refugees had not changed, telling MPs: “This Government is fully committed both to the principle of family reunion and to supporting the most vulnerable children.
“The Home Secretary wrote to the commission on October 22 to start negotiations with the European Union on future arrangements… We will also continue to reunite children with their families under the Dublin Regulation during the implementation period.”
But Shadow solicitor general Nick Thomas-Symonds said the Government “can’t and won’t be trusted on workers’ rights”.
Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “Last night Boris Johnson’s Conservative MPs turned their back on child refugees, stripped young people of their opportunities abroad and undermined workers rights.
“The Tories dislike it when they are labelled as insular and inhumane, but by blocking the Liberal Democrat amendment yesterday to protect family reunion rights for unaccompanied child refugees, as well as scrapping the Erasmus scheme, means they have more than earned those labels.
“The Liberal Democrats will continue to fight the Conservatives on their cruel and damaging plans.”