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Brexit, Labour Rights and Migration: Why Wisbech Matters to Brussels

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2019

Simon Deakin
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge Faculty of Law [sfd20@cam.ac.uk]
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Extract

In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum of 23 June 2016, the question of migration has been at the forefront of attempts to understand what happened, and in particular why working class communities in many of the regions of England, and in parts of Wales, voted predominantly for the Leave side. Polling data show a weak correlation between areas of the country that voted for Leave and high levels of inward migration from the rest of the EU. The link between immigration and Brexit is very clear in East Anglian agricultural towns like Boston and Wisbech, but otherwise is weak. South Wales and the North East of England, which also saw clear majorities for Leave, are not areas of high EU migration. Instead, they are regions that have experienced successive waves of deindustrialisation since the 1980s. The overriding issue raised by the Brexit vote, in my view, is not migration as such (although that is part of the story), but a wider phenomenon of deepening economic insecurity, and the dangerous political dynamic it has created.

Type
Brexit Special Supplement
Copyright
Copyright © 2016 by German Law Journal, Inc. 

References

1 The large cities outside London, including Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds voted for Remain, but Birmingham, Nottingham and Sheffield voted for Leave, as did many medium sized towns and traditionally working class regions in the north and midlands of England. See EU Referendum: The Result in Maps and Charts, BBC News (June 24, 2016), available at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36616028.Google Scholar

2 75% voted for Leave in Boston and 71% in Fen land (of which Wisbech forms a part), among the highest votes for Brexit. See EU Referendum: Full Results and Analysis, The Guardian (June 24, 2016), available at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/ng-interactive/2016/jun/23/eu-referendum-live-results-and-analysis.Google Scholar

3 Scotland has also undergone significant deindustrialisation in the same period, but protest against the policies of Westminster governments found an outlet in the rise of nationalism and the election to office of the predominantly social democratic Scottish National Party, which has held a controlling bloc of seats in the Scottish Parliament continuously since 2011. Every Scottish region voted by a majority for Remain and the overall vote in Scotland was over 60% for rejecting Brexit. See EU Referendum: The Result in Maps and Charts, BBC News (June 24, 2016), available at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36616028.Google Scholar

4 Deakin and Morris provide an overview of the evolution of EU social policy from the perspective of its relationship to UK labour law. See Simon Deakin & Morris, Gillian S., Labour Law (6th ed., 2012), pp. 103–13.Google Scholar

5 Felicity Lawrence, The Gangsters on England's Doorstep, The Guardian (May 11, 2016), available at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/may/11/gangsters-on-our-doorstep.Google Scholar

6 The House of Commons Library prepared a brief about the closure of the Redcar steel plant and the more recent threat to those elsewhere in the country in particular in South Wales. See Rhodes, Chris, The UK Steel Industry: Statistics and Policy, House of Commons Library Briefing Paper Number 07371 (May 2016), available at http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7317/CBP-7317.pdf.Google Scholar

7 See, e.g., Article 345 TFEU.Google Scholar

8 In 2008-9 the UK government had to provide financial support to several large banks, including the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and HBOS, to avoid their insolvency. It continues to hold significant stakes in RBS and in Lloyds Bank, which bought HBOS at the height of the crisis.Google Scholar

9 Case C-348/05, ITF v. Viking Line [2007] ECR-I 10779; Case C-341/05, Laval un Partneri Ltd v Svenska Byggnadsarbetareförbundet & others [2007] ECR-I 11767. Google Scholar

10 It eventually became Directive 2006/123/EC. See Barnard, Catherine, Unravelling the Services Directive, 45 Common Market Law Review 323–394 (2008).Google Scholar

11 See S. Deakin & F. Wilkinson, Marchés du travail, crise financière et réforme: projet d'agenda pour une politique du travail, 182 L'Homme et la societe 25–52 (2011).Google Scholar

12 Adams and Deakin have written about the various ways in which labour market policy in Britain, together with social security and fiscal law in particular but also employment law, has contributed to casualisation of work. See Adams, Zoe & Deakin, Simon, Reregulating Zero Hours Contracts (Liverpool: Institute of Employment Rights, 2015).Google Scholar

13 Simon Goodley & Jonathan Ashby, A “Day at the Gulag”: What it's Like to Work at Sports Direct's Warehouse, The Guardian (December 9, 2015), available at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/dec/09/sports-direct-warehouse-work-conditions; House of Commons Business, Skills and Innovation Committee, Oral Evidence: Working Practices at Sports Direct, HC 219 (June 7, 2016), available at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/business-innovation-and-skills/inquiries/parliament-2015/working-practices-at-sports-direct-inquiry-16-17/). Shirebook is the site of a former colliery and is in a region known, until the mid-1980s, for worker militancy. Shirebrook Colliery, along with most of the rest of the British coal industry, was closed following the unsuccessful (for the unions) outcome of the miners' strike of 1984-85.Google Scholar

14 Carole Cadwallader, My Week as an Amazon Insider, The Observer (December 1, 2013), available at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/01/week-amazon-insider-feature-treatment-employees-work.Google Scholar

15 Directive 96/71/EC. See Deakin & Morris, supra note 4, pp. 123–28.Google Scholar

16 Lawrence, supra note 5.Google Scholar

17 See Deakin & Morris, supra note 4, pp. 306–18 (on minimum wage regulation including the powers of the Agricultural Wages Board).Google Scholar

18 See Directive 2008/104/EC and SI 2010/93; Deakin & Morris, supra note 4, pp. 209–11.Google Scholar

19 Small Enterprise, Business and Employment Act 2015, s. 153, inserting ss. 27A and 27B, Employment Rights Act 1996.Google Scholar

20 See Barnard, Catherine, Simon Deakin & Richard Hobbs, Opting Out of the 48-hour Week: Employer Necessity or Individual Choice? An Empirical Study of the Operation of Article 18(1)(b) of the Working Time Directive in the United Kingdom, 32 Industrial Law Journal 223–252 (2003).Google Scholar

21 Deakin & Willkinson, supra note 11.Google Scholar

22 Case C-426/11 Alemo-Herron v. Parkwood Leisure Ltd. [2013] IRLR 744.Google Scholar

23 See Weatherill, Stephen, Use and Abuse of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights: On the Improper Veneration of “Freedom of Contract,” 10 European Review of Contract Law 157 (2014); Jeremias Prassl, Freedom of Contract as a General Principle of EU Law? Transfers of Undertakings and the Protection of Employer Rights in EU Labour Law, 42 Industrial Law Journal 434 (2013).Google Scholar

24 Case C-201/15, AGET Iraklis, Opinion of AG Wahl, at [1]; Nicola Countouris & Aristea Koukiadaki, The Purpose of European Labour Law: Floor of Rights or Ceiling?, Social Europe (June 6, 2016), available at https://www.socialeurope.eu/2016/06/purpose-european-labour-law-floor-rights-ceiling/.Google Scholar

25 Deakin has argued that the decisions in Viking and Laval were juridically questionable. See Deakin, Simon, Regulatory Competition After Laval, 8 Cambridge Yearbook of European Legal Studies 581 (2008).Google Scholar

26 Id. (on the relevance of the US model to EU law in this context).Google Scholar

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