Issue date
14 Feb 2018

Commenting on today’s (Wednesday) Brexit speech by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, which argued for major regulatory divergence form the EU, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“People have learned not to trust Boris Johnson. By calling agreements like the working time directive ‘intolerable’, he has fuelled fears that essential workplace rights will be lost after Brexit.

“When he says ‘regulatory divergence’ he means scrapping hard-won rights to paid holidays, equal pay and safety at work.

“We need a Brexit that protects jobs and guarantees workers’ rights. All options must be kept on the negotiating table. But the best option we currently see to protect workers’ needs is through the single market and customs union.”

Editors note

- In a by-line in the Sun today previewing his speech, Boris Johnson said that complying with EU agreements after Brexit would be ‘intolerable’. The agreements however include hard-won rights for working people that were campaigned for jointly by UK and other European trade unions. And he gave no explanation for how an ongoing level playing field will be guaranteed to ‘protect and enhance’ workers’ rights, as has previously been promised by the Prime Minister.
- In December 2017 the Sunday Times and Sun on Sunday reported that Boris Johnson was plotting with other Cabinet ministers to persuade Theresa May to abandon the working Time Directive after Brexit. 
- In Theresa May’s speech on the government’s Brexit negotiating objectives in January 2017, she said: “A fairer Britain is a country that protects and enhances the rights people have at work. Indeed, under my leadership, not only will the government protect the rights of workers set out in European legislation, we will build on them.” (Full speech is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-governments-negotiating-objectives-for-exiting-the-eu-pm-speech)
- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.