EU law has set minimum standards with which the UK has had to comply across a wide range of workers’ rights. Theresa May’s government told us that those rights are protected when the UK leaves the EU because, at the point of the UK’s departure, they will be preserved and converted into UK law by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
But that wasn’t telling the truth (even when and if the relevant provisions of the Act are brought into force). The Act does provide for the retention after exiting the EU of many (but by no means all) of the protections for workers’ rights derived from EU law (in the form of ‘retained EU law’) for the time being. But it doesn’t prevent those rights being dismantled by new UK legislation after Brexit.
The protections in Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement and the draft political declaration, which were rejected three times by the House of Commons were (and remain) completely meaningless and unacceptable. But she at least talked of a level playing field in areas such as the environment and workers’ rights. Boris Johnson has demanded that the EU rewrite the terms of the UK’s future relationship with it to allow the UK to diverge substantially from EU standards.
It is important to be as clear as we can be about what the future holds for workers’ rights derived from EU law in the event of ‘no deal’. In the event of ‘no deal’ there would be no transition period during which EU workers’ rights would continue to apply in the UK and the UK would trade on World Trade Organisation (‘WTO’) terms, at least until Free Trade Agreements had been put in place. What would this mean for workers’ rights derived from EU law in the UK?
In this briefing, Thompsons Solicitors explains why a 'no deal' would be the worst possible outcome for workers' rights.