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Brexit Secretary: employment law will not radically change

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David Davis, the new Secretary of State for Exiting the EU has suggested a UK exit from the EU would not radically affect existing employment laws.

Mr Davis has stated in a blog for the website Conservative Home, that “regulation already in place will stay for the moment, but the flood of new regulation from Europe will be halted”.

Mr Davis stated that currently businesses in the UK must comply with EU regulation, even if they do not export to the EU, which he suggested impacts on the UK’s global competitiveness.  In exiting the EU, Mr Davis said the UK should look to match regulation for companies to their primary export markets.

He added: “To be clear, I am not talking here about employment regulation. All the empirical studies show that it is not employment regulation that stultifies economic growth, but all the other market-related regulations, many of them wholly unnecessary.  Britain has a relatively flexible workforce, and so long as the employment law environment stays reasonably stable it should not be a problem for business.”

Mr Davis explained that by stopping the flood of unnecessary market and product regulation, growth for the UK could considerably improve, but he suggested this should not mean cutting workers’ rights.  He reiterated: “There is also a political, or perhaps sentimental point. The great British industrial working classes voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. I am not at all attracted by the idea of rewarding them by cutting their rights.”

Mr Davis indicated he would like to trigger Article 50, which is the mechanism which activates the UK’s notice to leave the EU and commences the exit negotiation process, before the end of 2016. However, new Prime Minister Theresa May has suggested she would prefer to wait until the Government had agreed trade deals before instigation the formal leaving process.

There had been a significant amount of speculation before the Brexit referendum that workers’ rights could be affected if there were to be a Leave vote.  Mr Davis’ comments may provide some comfort to employees who are concerned about what Brexit means for the existing rights that they enjoy in the workplace. 

What we do know however is that even if existing laws remain unaffected, once the UK has exited the EU, the UK will be free to implement its own new employment laws and will no longer be bound to interpret domestic legislation in line with EU directives.  This spells a sea change for UK employment laws and workers’ rights and employees and employers alike will be very interested to see how Brexit impacts upon UK employment regulation in the longer term.