© EU Commission

Labour, and even the PM, talk about preserving EU rights – which ones?

Workers’ & women's rights come from UK, not EU

One of the very many myths about the EU is that it has been responsible for the minimum statutory workers' rights enjoyed in the UK today. This is often repeated, particularly by Labour and LibDem pro-Remain politicians.

Questions for Remainer MPs

  • Do Remainer MPs want the UK to sink to the EU’s level?
  • Do they want no minimum wage legislation?
  • Do they want British workers to lose 8 day’s holiday pay?
  • Do they want women to lose 38 weeks’ paid maternity leave?

Last week Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn mentioned the subject of workers' rights again, in his letter to the Prime Minister, demanding “dynamic alignment on rights and protections so that UK standards keep pace with evolving standards across Europe as a minimum”.

Theresa May is still trying to persuade Labour MPs to back her non-Brexit Brexit deal. She has said that the Government is proposing to introduce a draft bill guaranteeing that UK workers’ rights will keep pace with those in the EU.

Brexit Facts4EU.Org looks again at the truth about “EU workers’ rights”

Brexit Facts4EU.Org summary

Workers' and women's rights

1. EU workers’ rights laws are lower than UK’s

  • UK statutory paid holiday entitlement is 28 days, in EU only 20 days
  • National Minimum Wage Act 1998 – there's no EU minimum wage law
  • Maternity leave – UK: 52 weeks, EU: 14 weeks
  • Under EU laws, the British people's rights would decrease

2. UK established workers’ rights long before EU

  • “Protection against sex, race and disability discrimination in the UK pre-dated EU law” (from TUC report)
  • Women’s rights: Equal Pay Act, Abortion Act and Divorce Reform Act were all passed before UK even joined EU
  • Sex Discrimination Act, Domestic Violence Act, Employment Protection Act – no EU involvement
  • EU’s Posted Workers Directive means EU workers can be employed in UK for fraction of the cost of UK workers

3. EU healthcare rights are way below UK standards

  • EU has no free healthcare requirement – most people pay for top-up private insurance
  • In France it costs over £25 just for 5 minutes with your GP, paid at the time
  • In many countries you pay, and get only partially reimbursed later
  • With the UK’s NHS, treatment is free at the point of delivery

4. Finally, workers’ rights are only relevant if you have work

  • In the Eurozone, austerity has taken the jobs of millions of workers
  • You’re nearly twice as likely to be out of work in the Eurozone
  • An entire young generation across southern Europe has been devastated by 30-50% unemployment for years


In the area of workers' and women's rights we've shown above, the UK's statutory arrangements are better than those which would be applicable under EU law.

Remainer misinformation

In Parliament in recent months, swathes of Remainer MPs have stood up many times and trotted out the mantra that the British people had been lied to during the Referendum campaign.

Indeed the British public has been lied to on a systematic and epic scale, but the vast majority of the lies came – and still come - from Remainers. Their continuing claims about workers' and women's rights which we have debunked above are just one small example of this.

Remain claims

© Official Stronger IN campaign

Relevance to Brexit

The EU is insisting on a "level playing field" as part of the ‘Future Partnership’. In other words it is trying to prevent the UK from operating as an independent country with its own taxation policies and other frameworks which would make the UK a more competitive country than those in the EU.

What could be a more obvious lack of a level playing field than that of UK businesses competing with businesses in the Single Market and Customs Union having a minimum wage 1/5th that of the UK? Or trying to compete with businesses which don’t face costs of higher holiday entitlements, or substantially longer maternity pay?

With a true, clean Brexit the British people and its Government will want to keep exisiting rights, but at least when the UK leaves it will be able to adopt sensible policies in other areas, to help British businesses compete.

Do Remainers want to go backwards?

The UK has chosen, through its elected representatives, to have workers’ rights which go well beyond those applicable under EU law.

It surprises us that Remainer MPs seem to want these workers’ rights rolled back to match the lower standards applicable in the EU....

[ Sources: Hansard | EC Working Time Directive 93/104/EC | TUC report 2016 on Workers’ Rights | EU Commission | Competences between UK and EU Social and Employment Policy (UK Gov’t) | National Minimum Wage Act ] Journalists and politicians can contact us for the full list of links, as usual.

Sunday 10 Feb 2019

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