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Workers' Rights after Brexit

San Francisco / December 24, 2019
On Friday, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed the House of Commons (link). When the WAB was initially published in October, it contained provisions that protected EU-derived workers' rights. That language was removed from the WAB before it passed Commons. Many people are rightfully worried that the Johnson Government will seek a "race to the bottom" on workers' rights.
I supported Leave during the 2016 referendum. The Johnson Government should strategically re-assess the requirements on workers' rights that were previously mandated by the UK's membership in the EU. But the Conservative Party should not get into the game of lowering protections for workers' rights as part of a post-Brexit strategy for promoting economic growth. Instead, the Johnson Government should strategically deviate from EU standards on workers' rights when a deviation would promote growth and be fair to businesses and workers.
Keep in mind that the UK must negotiate new trade deals with a wide range of partners. If the Johnson Government significantly drops labor standards, that can create a hesitation with potential trading partners. This is especially true when the counterparty is a wealthier country that prides itself on high labor standards. The Johnson Government should develop labor standards that other countries will want to imitate. The United Kingdom should set an example.
Also, the Conservative Party picked up seats in the North, the Midlands, and Wales. Many voters in those areas want to retain the vast majority of EU-derived workers' protections. Boris Johnson should listen to these voters. Many of the advisers in Johnson's cabinet who are pushing to remove workers' rights from British law have never had to work to support themselves. They come from very wealthy backgrounds. Their views on labor protections are very theoretical. They have never experienced the practical dynamics of negotiating for a higher wage. Johnson should ignore these out-of-touch, right-wing theorists.

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