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Government pledges to uphold workers' rights in Brexit White paper

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The government’s long-awaited Brexit White paper has promised there will be no roll back on workers rights when Britain leaves the EU next year.


Stating such provisions will be protected under ‘non-regression’ clauses for standards and rights in employment and the environment, the paper says: ‘Existing workers’ rights enjoyed under EU law will continue to be available in UK law on the day of withdrawal.’

It cites the UK’s ‘strong record’ on workers’ rights including parental leave and flexible working arrangements, and as a ‘leader’ in areas including health and safety.

“Given this strong record, and in the context of the UK’s vision for the future relationship with the EU, the UK proposes that the UK and the EU commit to the non-regression of labour standards,” it says.

European Parliament where 27 EU member states will debate the terms Britain has proposed for its relationship with the EU after Brexit

The 100-page White Paper named 'the Future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union', was published on 12 July to set out a plan for continued regulatory alignment with the EU on goods and food after Brexit. As part of its propositions for a future economic partnership with the EU, it says the UK will participate in the EU agencies for highly regulated sectors like chemicals, aviation and medicines.

The UK will also ‘agree to maintain high standards through non-regression provisions in areas including the environment and employment rules.’

The paper, based on Prime Minister Theresa May's so-called Chequers Plan for Brexit, however has failed to allay fears that workers’ rights will not be lost or watered down in the years to come after Brexit is triggered on 29 March 2019.

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect union, which represents 141,000 members across diverse industries, said: “Little in these proposals will reassure industry or our members that the cost of Brexit will not impact on jobs and investment, or jeopardise vital employment standards and hard fought for rights.”

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC tweeted: “Can't believe it's taken two years to get to this point. A white paper full of holes, that delivers little or nothing for working people. Rights, jobs and livelihoods are still at risk.”

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said he would analyse the UK’s proposals with EU member states and the European parliament “in light of guidelines” drawn up by EU leaders.

Barnier was due to meet ministers from the 27 EU member states on 20 July, where they will debate how to respond to the proposals.

White paper available to download in full here 

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