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The Tory in charge of Brexit has spent his career attacking workers' rights

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Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has described workers’ rights as “obstacles to British business” and UK workers as “the worst idlers in the world”
Official portrait of Dominic Raab MP
Dominic Raab has dedicated his parliamentary career to attacking workers’ rights and trade unions Credit: Chris McAndrew*

Today Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab delivered yet another fantasy speech on Brexit at the Conservative Party Conference.

With the risk of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal growing daily, workers need guarantees that their hard-won rights will be protected whatever happens.

But today Raab had nothing to say about workers’ rights and no plan to protect jobs and the economy after Brexit.

Instead he simply downplayed the damage of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, which we’re clear would be catastrophic for rights, jobs and peace in Northern Ireland.

And if his record as an MP is anything to go by, workers should be worried about what happens after the UK leaves the EU.

Because the man in charge of Brexit has dedicated his parliamentary career to attacking workers’ rights and trade unions.

“Obstacles to business”

Dominic Raab has been attacking workers’ rights ever since he became an MP in 2010.

Seven years ago, he wrote a research paper calling for “a total opt-out from the Working Time Directive” (WTD).

Even though the WTD ensures millions of workers have the right to paid holidays, time off work and guaranteed lunch and rest breaks, Raab singled it out as one of ten obstacles to British business.

His paper – entitled ‘Escaping the Strait Jacket’ – also urged the UK government to ensure that this “costly, anti-jobs legislation cannot cause further damage to the economy”.

That he did so in an article calling for a renegotiation of the UK’s future relationship with the EU doesn’t bode well now he’s in charge of Brexit.

No friend of workers

Raab is no friend of the trade union movement either.

Back in 2011, he said that millions of pounds of public money was being “squandered” on union activities in police forces.

These ‘activities’ were simply the result of agreements with employers that allowed unions to represent members and negotiate with management.

A year later, he co-authored an attack against UK workers entitled Britannia Unchained, which claimed that “the British are among the worst idlers in the world”.

In an article promoting the book , he said that UK workers were “coasting” and that it should be easier to let them go.

And let’s not forget that he was one of the Tory MPs who voted for the Trade Union Act in 2015 – the most serious attack on the rights of trade unions and their members in a generation.

Bonfire of rights

Raab’s appointment as Brexit Secretary is just the latest worrying sign that Brexit could lead to a bonfire of workers’ rights.

This has been a long-term ambition for hardline Brexiteers, who want to give bosses even more power over workers.

Earlier this year, we warned that Tory Brexiteer Christopher Chope was trying to use a private member’s bill to scrap the Working Time Directive.

And before Christmas, it was reported that Michael Gove and Boris Johnson were planning to use Brexit as an excuse to ditch the directive and the UK regulations that enforce it.

We also warned in August that the Prime Minister’s actions during the Brexit negotiations told a different story to her promises to protect workers’ rights come what may.

No-one voted for Brexit to lose out on holidays or to hand power over to bad bosses, but it seems increasingly clear that Brexiteers like Raab have workers’ rights in their sights.

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