Yesterday marked a historical day for the UK. With the triggering of Article 50 the process of leaving the European Union has begun and with that the journey into the somewhat unknown.
As discussions begin, the fate of industries around the country rest in the hands of David Davis, Michel Barnier and their teams of negotiators. Obviously as far as the UKs position goes, the aim is to keep beneficial trade deals and to keep our economic position as strong as possible, all while attempting to improve security and regain control of our own citizen’s rights.
The biggest concern facing a lot of people in industries right now is the threats to EU workers rights. Recently concerns have been raised about the European Commission’s social policy agenda becoming more restrictive. Some European Court of Justice (ECJ) cases have limited the ability of unions to organise action in cross-border disputes, and in some member countries, the Commission has undermined sector-wide bargain agreements.
Set against these concerns however, are the significant employment right benefits that UK workers continue to see as part of our EU membership. The aim for the UK now is to create a similar environment for its workers, allowing them to benefit from the same rights as already given. Questions will be raised about the ability to provide the same level of rights as provided by the EU and how they will benefit foreign workers already in the country.
As it currently stands individuals or unions are able to request cases be taken to the ECJ if they believe that Uk courts and tribunals have not properly handled the case or have not fully respected their EU employment rights. The European Commission has also previously brought infraction proceeding against the Uk government in cases where the domestic law has fallen short of EU standards.
In short, the EU Commission acts as a second opinion towards workers rights disputes and helps individuals and unions gain the full benefit of the rights given to them. Without it, a lot rests on the ability for the UK government to implicate it’s own system of equally high standard and for it to effectively self-regulate.
This leads us to our next impactful area, free movement of workers. As it currently stands members of the EU benefit from the right of entry and residence for workers and their families and the right to work in another member state and the right to be treated equally compared to the nationals of said member state. If these rights were to be waived upon leaving the EU, one of a number of processes may be introduced in its place. As has previously been stated by the UK government, there is a sway towards a point-based immigration system, similar to that of Australia, which looks at applicant’s education and work experience to determine their benefit and possible contribution to the economy and field of employment. It seems that if the current standing free movement agreement were to be scrapped, industries would see a reduction in foreign workers and as such a rise in wage costs or possible decrease the available workforce. On the other hand, it would allow the UK government to tackle unemployment figures, and with the rise in living wage coming soon, it may increase the number of UK residents in UK jobs.
Unfortunately however, the outcome of our departure and the discussions to come is still unclear. Both sides have made clear their intentions and many people will still continue to argue over which will benefit us more, but until deals are finalised we can merely speculate and carry on with the determination that the British people have always displayed.