Sunday

27th May 2018

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Feature

Resetting the gender balance through football

Many sports, like football, have been so heavily male-dominated at every level that women and girls have battled against poor odds to be treated as equals in the game. FIFA aims to change that.

Opinion

Paying a high cost: EU's role in Spain's painful health cuts

The EU should either conduct, or ask states to conduct, human rights impact assessments of country-specific recommendations to ensure that the implementation of austerity measures does not result in reduced human rights protections.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach