The TUC and the warring Labour party both agree that the UK’s minimum standards for employees, often set out in EU law, should not be watered down. I agree.
I find it curious that both bodies make this their central campaign as we come out of the EU, when as far as I am aware no-one in power or a position of influence over the government thinks these laws should be diluted.
Throughout the Referendum campaign the repeal of EU labour law was the dog which would not bark, because it was the dog that did not exist. I remember well being asked at most of the debates I attended during the referendum which measures I would want to deregulate and repeal if we left and could get rid of EU laws. Some asked me because they thought Leave would stumble and be unable to list anything.Some, including media enquiries, were hoping I would want to get rid of some piece of EU labour law, as they wished to keep it.
I always began my answer that the worst regulations I wanted to remove and replace with better ones were the extensive rules of the Common Fishing Policy. I want sensible rules to preserve our fishing grounds that allow a better deal for UK fishermen. That was not one the Remain faction wanted to discuss. They would press again. I would talk about the compulsory VAT on domestic fuel and green products and ask for that to be repealed. That was another that did not suit their purposes. I would then press to change the procurement rules, as they seem to militate against the UK public sector buying enough British product. This list would usually satiate their wish for regulatory repeal and change. I could go on.
The Leave campaign was united in saying we would keep all EU labour laws for two reasons. One, many of us want there to be decent standards at work. Two, the UK has a long tradition of improving legal minima, often above EU requirements. Leaving will not change that.
I also now have a third reason for wanting to keep these rules. Big businesses are the ones most likely to want to dilute these standards. All too many big businesses, who should have stayed neutral, waded in on the Remain side in the debates. By doing so they lost potential support for any more dubious legal reform they might want once we come out. Why should I think their judgement any wiser or more popular on labour law than it was on membership of the EU?