EU referendum: Trade, workers and the bubble of self-righteousness

This blog in our series focuses on how to deal with Leave campaign negativity in the area of employment, workers’rights and protections, but also includes throwaway snippets on the minimum extra import taxes we could expect after Brexit.

“European employment red tape is strangling our ability to employ people” 

So you think it would be any better if Britain left the EU? It would be the same just different bureaucrats. And a lot of the so called red tape protects our workers and boosts productivity. “It’s the EU that guarantees workers their right to paid holiday, parental leave, equal treatment for part time workers, and much more“, highlights the  Trade Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Frances O’Grady in a new report UK Employment Rights and the EU.

EU referendum blog - worker's rights protected by the EU

The TUC ‘s clear and concise argument for Remain is as follows:

Workers’ rights and protection

By ensuring British workers have decent rights at work, employers have to invest more in their workforce, but it raises productivity. It is a virtuous circle in which well treated workers produce higher value goods and services, thus increasing profits, leading to higher wages and a sense of ownership in the workforce.

Measures to ensure equal pay for equal work have helped women, and similar measures have helped part-time, agency, fixed-term and outsourced employees. The provision of paid holidays under the Working Time Directive at a stroke increased real wages. And real wages equals more spending power.

Trade and investment

UK membership of the EU increases foreign investment in the economy, and investment creates better paid, higher value jobs. We export so much to the EU, and the bigger the investment market is, the more jobs it creates. Jobs in businesses which export are higher paid and more skilled. By the same token, our membership of the EU produces cheaper imports, which increase real wages by reducing the cost of living for everyone.

For example, my shopping list this weekend included the following goods from the EU: Lemon (Asda) 20p,Wine (Sainsbury’s) £6.99, French cheese (posh cheese shop) £9.99. After Brexit, even if only the World Trade Organisation’s 2.5% tariff were added, the lemon would cost an extra penny with rounding up, the wine another 17 or 18p, the cheese another 25p, a total of 42p before the additional costs for transport and import/export tariffs were included.

The TUC  also talks of the hidden devaluation Brexit would bring. The effects would not be immediate, but suddenly the cost of very basic imports (my lemons and wine) would increase by between 2.5%and 4%. And our exports would cost more as well, by the same percentages or perhaps more, so our former partners in Europe would look elsewhere for lamb (38% is exported to the EU), inside the now UK-free EU.

“The UK would find other markets”

Did you know that no British beef has been imported into the USA for 20 years, following the outbreak of Mad Cow Disease?

And then there are the questions of solidarity with the people of Europe and workers all over the world. Just about everyone , In or Out, loathes the idea of battery chickens and other meat producing creatures. Millions of workers outside the EU live and work in conditions not much better than battery hens.

Only with the example of European protections for workers and the power of the Single Market to boycott goods or lay down conditions before importing them, can we help other human beings all over the planet achieve better living and working conditions. We have it better in the UK than most places on the planet, so think about this, don’t you want all humanity to enjoy the same?

The bigger the Single Market, the louder the voice. We cannot live in a British Bubble.

Senga Scott