Laura Owen / Politics

Forgotten News: Social and Employment Legislation – The Conservatives’ battle

One of the latest Europe-bashing endeavours of the Conservative party, which hasn’t really made the news, is the allegation that Britain has too much social and employment legislation. As a result the party would like a British opt-out of Articles 151-161 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). These articles specify in which areas of social and employment policy the EU is allowed to take action and dictates how decisions should be made. Opting out of these articles would allow Britain to make its own legislation on social policy. This is just one of the many ways in which the Tories are driving our country slowly but surely out of Europe.

Repatriating social policy is a disastrous idea presented entirely at the wrong time.

There is little evidence of employers ever complaining about the EU directives but more how these are implemented by national governments. Repatriating powers will not change this. If anything this situation will only be made worse as it’s our government that employers are agitated by, not Europe.

A British opt-out from these articles would require agreement from all 27 member states. With a lot of members in economic turmoil,there are definitely bigger issues to concentrate on.

The European Commission no longer legislates in this area and no new initiatives are planned. It seems bizarre that the Conservatives should choose now to bring up this proposed change. Even when the Commissiondoes get involved it only enforces “soft measures” such as improving workers’conditions. So shifts are being made in the UK’s favour – it would be crazy to mess with the system now.

A study by OpenEurope supports the notion that the Tories should tackle this issue now, concluding that social policy accounts for 25% ofthe total cost of regulation in the UK. Their story goes that if Britain made its own legislation on social policy then a huge sum of money would be saved.It is another chapter of the same old tale that “Europe costs us too much money”.  But no explanation of how these costs were calculated has ever been put forward. These figures are as scientific as a seven year old’s science book.

Laura Owen  28.02.2012


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