Johnson hints that UK will drop EU social and environmental protections

After the UK left the EU on Friday (31 January 2020), the government is setting out its aims for trade talks, with Boris Johnson hinting that it may drop social protections like workers’ rights as well as environmental regulations.

3 Feb 2020| News

Speaking today, he said: “There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment, or anything similar any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules.”

This news may add to concerns that the government is laying the groundwork to erode workers’ rights.

In November, the Financial Times reported that a leaked document revealed Johnson’s plans to tear up employment laws derived from the EU.

In his Withdrawal Agreement, the Prime Minister had removed clauses pertaining to retaining – or building on – a level playing field on labour standards, which President of the IER Professor Keith Ewing and co-author Professor Nicola Countouris analysed in detail in a timely briefing.

According to the Financial Times, an internal government memo reported that “the only level playing field provisions [in the new deal] … are those necessary to support the operation of the Single Electricity Market and State aid measures that affect trade between [Northern Ireland] and the EU.”

The BBC reported at the time that it was clear from the leaked document that “weakening these provisions was a key part of the renegotiation”.