Ed Miliband, Shadow Business Secretary, pointed out that Kwarteng’s vague “platitudes” do not constitute a “real denial that the specific proposals reported are on the table”.
“Ministers have promised time and again they will not row back on workers’ rights but their mask has slipped,” he said.
Indeed, IER Chair Lord John Hendy QC and his fellow peer, Baroness Christine Blower, warned during a rushed Lords’ debate last Friday (08 January 2021) that the Brexit deal struck with the EU was specifically designed to allow the government to weaken protections for workers.
“The Trade and Cooperation Agreement insists on the UK’s ‘right to determine the labour and social levels of protection it deems appropriate and to adopt or modify its laws and policies’. It permits the weakening of levels of protection below existing EU standards,” Lord Hendy explained.
“The EU didn’t seek a tilted playing field of this kind,” he reminded the Lords. “It was the British government which insisted on power to degrade the rights of British workers. The intent is clear: the government intends to degrade the rights of British workers. We are warned.”
Baroness Blower agreed, pointing out: “The UK government insisted on wording that could – and will in all likelihood – facilitate the dilution of workers’ rights deriving from the EU … Were it the government’s intention to diverge from these rights by improving them, no wording would have been necessary.”
IER Director, Carolyn Jones, commented: “The UK economy is in freefall following decades of deregulation, privatisation and austerity. Underinvestment, low productivity and lack of spending power are the problems not rest breaks, overtime or holiday pay.
“Instead of holding discussions with ‘250 leading business figures’ the PM would do well to listen to representatives of those who produce the wealth, provide the services and keep the economy turning. Let’s not forget, working time regulations are part of a health and safety package. Only an idiot would propose undermining that package in the midst of a global health crisis.”