The TUC has published alarmist claims about the supposed risks to workers’ rights when we leave the EU. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Working people have a huge stake in the referendum because workers’ rights are on the line. It’s the EU that guarantees workers their rights to paid holidays, parental leave, equal treatment for part-timers, and much more”.
That’s the headline. Interestingly the full TUC report on the EU and workers’ rights is much more nuanced, and warns that “Brussels has increasingly restricted the scope of EU social policy by placing limits on the ability of unions to organise industrial action in cross-border disputes. In some eurozone countries, the European commission has undermined collective bargaining agreements that cover whole industries”. Nonetheless the TUC uses the report for full-on, pro-Brussels scare-mongering.
So let’s consider the facts. First of all, there are areas where British benefits actually exceed the requirements of Brussels – in maternity leave, for example. In fact a recent study shows that the UK is the most generous country in Europe in terms of maternity leave.
Secondly, on the day after the Brexit vote – and probably for several years afterwards – existing Brussels provisions will remain in force in the UK. There’s no “leap in the dark”. The process of reviewing and revising EU regulation will certainly take several years.
Third, and most importantly, any revisions will be made in the UK by MPs whom we have elected, and whom we can dismiss at the next General Election if we don’t like what they’re up to. Decisions will no longer be made by faceless and unaccountable bureaucrats in a foreign capital city.
More generally, the Remainians will claim that every social and environmental development in the UK, from cleaner beaches to paid holidays, are thanks to the EU – as though non-EU countries didn’t have cleaner beaches and paid holidays as well.