New Brexit secretary Dominic Raab wanted UK to negotiate with EU to scrap workers' rights

UK

Theresa May’s new Brexit secretary previously called for Britain to use negotiations with the EU to scrap workers’ rights, it has emerged.

Dominic Raab, who was appointed to lead the UK’s negotiations to leave the bloc after David Davis dramatically quit on Sunday, authored a paper calling for opt-outs from EU employment regulations, including those that guarantee employees time off and limit the number of hours staff can be made to work.

He also opposed rules that give long-term agency workers the same rights as full-time staff, and those that stop people being sacked if their company changes owner.

The revelation is likely to fuel fears that Brexit could be used to remove protections currently guaranteed by EU laws.

The Independent has previously revealed that a government document suggested workers’ rights could be reviewed after Britain leaves the EU as part of a process of “maximising regulatory opportunities” to boost the economy.  

Labour said Mr Raab had “has long harboured ambitions to slash vital workplace protections”.

Referring to David Cameron’s attempts renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU, Mr Raab wrote in 2011: “This opportunity should be seized, and used to remove some of the obstacles to British business.”

In a report for the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies thinktank, he argued that cutting regulations could help create up to 140,000 jobs.

Among regulations Mr Raab said should scrapped are the EU’s Working Time Regulations, which restrict the number of hours an employee can be forced to work to 48 hours a week or 13 hours a day. They also guarantee at least one day off a week, a minimum of four weeks’ paid annual leave a year.

Criticising the regulations, Mr Raab wrote: “By limiting flexibility and adding to employers’ costs, the regulations impede job creation.”

He added: “Britain should secure a total opt-out from the Working Time Directive and scrap the UK Regulations, ensuring that this costly, anti-jobs legislation cannot cause further damage to the economy.”

Mr Raab also called for UK to abolish EU rules that, in his words, “give agency workers the right to the same basic employment and working conditions as full-time staff” once they have been working for a company for 12 weeks.

He said these “increase the cost of hiring” and would prevent businesses from using agency workers.

Staff rights to maintain existing conditions even if new owners comes in should also be scrapped, he said, adding: “That is bad for business: successful companies should be free to extend their more competitive business model to new acquisitions.”

In the same report, Mr Raab called for the minimum wage to be abolished for some workers under the age of 21, and said it should be made easier for companies to sack “underperforming” employees.

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Paul Blomfield, Labour’s shadow Brexit minister, told The Independent: “The new Brexit secretary has long harboured ambitions to slash vital workplace protections and rights, and the Prime Minister has now put him in a position to do so.

“This latest blow for workers comes a few days after the Cabinet failed to rule out a race to the bottom with the EU on crucial employment protection. It’s become abundantly clear once again that this chaotic Tory government cannot be trusted with people’s rights after Brexit.”

The new Brexit secretary was appointed on Monday morning after David Davis resigned over disagreements with the government’s policy.

The government has been contacted for comment.

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