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EU Law: A Case Study by Richard Thompson

May 30, 2018 9:30 AM
By Richard Thompson

Since the word "brexit" was coined, there have been many discussions on EU law. On how it holds us back, is imposed upon us undemocratically, and limits our competitiveness.

One of the core arguments for brexit is that we can become a more agile trading nation, and that we can sign new free or preferential trade agreements (FTAs) that replace and exceed our lost EU trade.

The EU has a significant head start here, already having FTAs with 52 countries, and is partway through negotiations with another 72, including nations such as the United States. The UK would therefore need to negotiate 124 new agreements, plus one with the EU itself, just to be in the same position it is in today.1

One way for us to become significantly more competitive, is to rip up much of the EU law that "holds us back". One example is the Working Time Directive2. Brexiteer Michael Gove is now pushing for this to be scrapped when we leave the EU.3 This would, we grant, allow employers more flexibility, and save employers money - by taking it directly from the pockets of working people.

Ipswich Liberal Democrats recently received this message via our facebook page, quoted here verbatim:

"Hi guys, I just wanted to draw your attention to something, the working time directive is under threat and Michael Gove seems to be in favour of scrapping it. I worked in a supermarket for 8 years on a contract under 20 hours working around 35 with overtime, the average pay awarded to me when I took holiday greatly benefited me and allowed me to take holiday freely without worry and I enjoyed my life, I was mistaken to vote leave as this law alone would have been enough to vote remain.

Please raise this issue it dramatically changed my life another point is add is more money paid to me is more tax for the government, more cash to spend in shops (boost for retailers) and was the greatest change my life has ever seen.

In or out millions of us are in great peril, please don't let us down and give us a voice we can't be exploited like this again!

I have voted for you in the local and general elections, a life long Labour voter but this brexit madness must be stopped.

The economic argument is lost, tens of thousands of jobs lost, loss of investment etc also too many eu migrants putting the nhs under strain too far too few eu migrants left the the nhs.

The laws the eu implemented greatly improved my life as well as hundreds if millions of others. Please do what ever you can to keep the working time directive you have my full support."

This one, anecdotal, experience is just one person's perspective. But it highlights a larger issue. Even in the outside if brexit leads, in the long term, towards a strong economy, who will be the casualties of this economy? Who will reap the rewards of brexit, if indeed there are any? The Liberal Democrats believe that those working people least able to afford it will be the ones to pay for brexit. Be it directly with reduced holiday pay after the repeal of the working time directive, indirectly with lower wage growth, shorter holidays, shorter rest periods and longer working hours, or through higher taxes to fund our creaking public services.

Those that benefit, will be the employers and shareholders who don't have to pay their workers properly anymore.

While the Conservatives flounder about publishing misinformation - such as the white paper claiming British workers currently receive 14 weeks annual leave4 - and Labour mirror Conservative brexit policy with minor adjustments, the Liberal Democrats are the only ones fighting for the rights of working people.

Richard Thompson, Ipswich Liberal Democrats

Richard Thompson


1 http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2016/03/04/leaving-the-eu-would-mean-renegotiating-more-than-100-trade- agreements/

2 https://www.gov.uk/maximum-weekly-working-hours

3 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/comment/burnout-britain-looms-as-gove-and-allies-plan-to- axe-working-time-directive-a8116381.html

4 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-white-paper-embarassing-error-chart-14-weeks- holiday-a7559561.html