Facts and history matter when it comes to workers’ rights and Brexit

Mike Clancy · 23 October 2019

Workers’ rights are now central to arguments about whether the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal is a prelude to a deregulatory future and a bonfire of employment standards. Now that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) has been published but paused, we must test the Prime Minister’s assertions that the legislation will lock-in any future improvements in workers’ rights that the EU introduces and that commitment is future proofed.

Those now backing the deal seem to rely on three main issues which play out across party lines: that the UK had strong workplace rights before we joined the EU so what’s to worry about? The argument goes that ‘we have some rights that are better than those the EU requires and that the EU is deficient anyway, because through its history it has given greater priority to the rights of capital as opposed to labour, and so we can do better if we are freed from this framework.’ The problem with this is that it seems to ignore both the facts and the history and relies on a premise that future UK governments will adopt as good if not better standards than the EU in future.

Mike Clancy is the General Secretary of Prospect Union.