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Workers’ rights after Brexit: Professor Michael Ford presents in Brussels

Press release issued: 23 April 2018

On 11 April Professor of Law Michael Ford QC gave a presentation on the impact of Brexit on the rights of workers in the UK and in the EU, in an event dedicated to considering the issues surrounding Britain’s departure from the EU and labour laws.

The potential impact of Brexit on UK labour law standards, many of which originated in European law, could lead to the watering down of safeguarding provisions for British workers, as well as the risk of competition in other countries for lowest labour law standards.

Participants of the event, organised by AK EUROPA and ÖGB Europabüro (the Brussels Offices of the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour and the Austrian Trade Union Federation in Brussels), included Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the British Trades Union Congress (TUC), Erich Foglar, President of the Austrian Trade Union Federation and Barbara Spinelli, Member of the European Parliament. The discussion was moderated by Esther Lynch, Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Federation.

Professor Michael Ford spoke about the legal status of workers’ rights after Brexit:

After Brexit, the many workers' rights derived from EU law will have no privileged legal status whatsoever, and so can quickly be repealed, amended or adjusted by the government of the day.

The laws will be interpreted by the domestic courts, which lack any tradition of fundamental social rights; and the rights will no longer benefit from important EU principles such as effective remedies.

The floor of rights which has been carefully constructed over the last forty years could be stripped bare at any time."

In 2016, prior to the EU referendum, the TUC commissioned Michael to create a legal opinion on the impact of Brexit on workers’ rights. The report can be read in full here.

Further information

Professor Michael Ford specialises in labour law, human rights and public law. He is a QC in private practice at Old Square Chambers and a fee-paid Employment Judge. He has a particular interest in social rights, EU law as it affects labour law, international protections of labour rights, and empirical changes in the labour market. His current interests include the effects of recent reforms on enforcing workers' rights in the UK and the implications of Brexit on labour law.

For further information about legal news, events and research related to Brexit please visit the Law School’s Brexit Centre website.

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