Catherine Stihler MEP, co-chair of Scottish Labour for the Single Market, marks International Workers’ Day 2018.
Today, countries across Europe are celebrating May Day.
On this important day, when we commemorate the international labour movement, we can be proud of the Labour Party’s commitment to workers’ rights over the decades. The welfare state, the minimum wage and tax credits are just a few of our great achievements in office, working hand-in-hand with our trade union allies.
But our party’s current Brexit policy risks putting workers’ rights at risk.
There is a reason why the Tories want to leave the European Single Market. Their plan is to rip apart the rights and protections that the British people have come to take for granted. Whether it’s maternity and paternity rights, or rights for those with a disability, these rights at work are part of the European deal, and we do not have to leave these behind because of Brexit.
That is the Tory choice; it’s not ours.
When Labour signed up to the European Social Chapter in 1997, this is why we did so: to stop a race to the bottom, where bad firms can undercut the good employers, and where all workers are protected. This is exactly what the Tories hate about the Single Market; we can’t let them get away with trampling all over workers’ rights.
There is another reason hard-line right-wing Tories hate the European Single Market: it protects us from them. When over-powerful right-wing governments have stamped all over the rights we fought for – whether in tackling injustices perpetrated by Tory governments, or trade union rights we all enjoy – British citizens have taken on the Tories with the help of our friends in Europe.
On International Workers’ Day, we should celebrate the contribution that European migrants have made to our economy. The Tories want to end the free movement of people, but we know that our country is better off when we attract talent from neighbouring countries.
The Tories see anything to do with Europe as a threat to their divine right to bulldoze their way over ordinary British people. But we have fought them before, and won. This fight is ours to win now.
Let’s protect workers from the Tories. Let’s do all we can to keep the UK in the European Single Market.