Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has confirmed his department launched a review into EU workers’ protections post-Brexit, but insisted there will not be a “bonfire of rights”.
Responding to reports that the government was preparing to rip up regulations that prevent Britons working more than 48 hours a week, Kwarteng told Westminster’s business select committee today that “we wanted to look at a whole range of issues relating to our EU membership and examine what we want to keep”.
The Financial Times reported last week that the government wanted to overhaul its regulatory regime now the UK has left the EU’s single market and customs union.
It was speculated that the deregulatory measures related to the EU’s working time directive, which provides a right for people to work no more than 48 hours a week and enshrines certain length rest breaks into law.
Kwarteng strongly denounced the reports when the article came out, tweeting “we are not going to lower the standards of workers’ rights”.
He reaffirmed this commitment today, but did say that his Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) department did lead an inquiry into the working time directive.
“We’re absolutely committed, I think we can have a very trong, very powerful economy based on net zero, on the Prime Minister’s 10 point [climate change] plan and also having a really good high standard for workers, employment and high wage economy,” he said.
“The idea we’re trying to whittle down standards is not at all plausible.”
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said Kwarteng had “now let the cat out of the bag”.
“A government committed to maintaining existing protections would not be reviewing whether they should be unpicked,” Miliband said.
“This exposes that the Government’s priorities for Britain are totally wrong.”