Friday

9th Dec 2022

Cameron idea to repatriate EU laws is 'complete non-starter'

  • Andor: 'I find it curious that the unbridled power of the market should be viewed so positively' (Photo: Dees Chinniah)

British Prime Minister David Cameron's aim to 'repatriate' some EU social laws has been deemed as "complete non-starter" by the European Commissioner in charge of the dossier.

In a strongly worded address to a trade union audience in London on Monday (13 February), EU social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor also took Britain to task for promulgating stereotypes, its dislike of employment legislation and the assumption that it can cherrypick EU laws.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Andor noted that EU laws which have been agreed by governments and parliament - as social laws are - are binding on all member states.

If Britain wanted to be exempt from social and employment laws, the treaty would have to be changed - itself requiring the agreement of all 27 countries.

"I therefore think it is clear that repatriating social policy competence is a non-starter — legally, socially and politically," said the commissioner.

His rebuke goes against the heart of a policy announced by Cameron in order to keep his eurosceptic backbenchers on board when it comes to London's EU policy.

In return for not holding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, Cameron promised to repatriate social laws and a sovereignty bill was later passed promising a referendum if significant powers are handed over to the EU in future.

Andor's speech also defends in detail laws that attract the most ire in the UK - rules for temporary workers and rules capping the working week at 48 hours.

The last two were among those singled out by Cameron at a speech at last month's World Economic Forum as "making life harder."

The Hungarian official, one of the few centre-left commissioners, also takes aim at what he reckons is Britain's extraordinary affection for a deregulated market.

He speaks of the "widespread — though not universal — and seemingly unreasoning belief in the primacy of the market in the governance of the economy. I find it curious that the unbridled power of the market should be viewed so positively."

Apparently intent on raising all the bugbears that EU officials can occasionally be heard to mutter about the UK (widely regarded as the most recalcitrant member of the Union) Andor also says he wants to "debunk the myth" of "unelected Brussels bureaucrats" - a familiar refrain in some of the UK's newspapers.

"May I take the opportunity to debunk a myth frequently heard here in the UK - that 'unelected Brussels bureaucrats' dictate EU health and safety at work legislation. I often muse at the term 'unelected bureaucrats' — as if many bureaucrats were elected! It also fudges the issue of accountability, which has nothing to do with being elected."

Andor's broadside comes at complicated time in London's relations with Brussels. At a summit in December, Cameron blocked other member states from going ahead with full-blown treaty change. They opted for an intergovernmental pact instead, excluding the UK.

Talks to revise EU working time bill fail

Despite hours of late-night negotiations, EU member states and MEPs have failed to reach an agreement on updating a directive on working hours across the 27-nation bloc, effectively killing off attempts to revise the legislation for good.

Cameron defends EU veto amid accusations of isolating Britain

In a stormy parliamentary debate highlighting the fall-out with his coalition partner, UK Prime Minister David Cameron struggled to defend his EU veto arguing he had safeguarded financial services from extra regulation, despite Brussels claiming the contrary.

UK better off in EU for now, says eurosceptic think tank

The UK would be better off staying in the EU than leaving it, the country's foremost eurosceptic thinktank has said. But London should use "likely" new treaty discussions to negotiate more beneficial EU membership terms.

Exclusive

Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout

Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, is currently drawing a pension from a European Parliament fund that is some €400m in debt and may require a taxpayer bailout at a time of rising inflation and high energy costs.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

Opinion

No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU

The European Commission has asked the member states' leaders assembling in Brussels next week for the customary end-of-year European Council to approve EU candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doing so would be a mistake.

Exclusive

Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout

Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, is currently drawing a pension from a European Parliament fund that is some €400m in debt and may require a taxpayer bailout at a time of rising inflation and high energy costs.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission silent on Greek spyware sale to Madagascar
  2. A plea to the EU from inside Tehran's Evin jail
  3. EU lets Croatia into Schengen, keeps Bulgaria and Romania out
  4. Energy crisis costs thousands of EU jobs, but industrial output stable
  5. Illegal pushbacks happening daily in Croatia, says NGO
  6. No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU
  7. EU takes legal action against China over Lithuania
  8. EU Commission shoring up children's rights of same-sex parents

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us