Theresa May's new Brexit chief called to turn 'back the clock' on workers' rights

GettyNew chief of staff to the Brexit Secretary, Nick de Bois.
  • Exclusive: The UK Brexit Secretary’s new chief of staff pushed for worker protections to be stripped back.
  • Former Conservative MP Nick de Bois, who now works for Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, called for the “turning back the clock” on employment regulations.
  • Theresa May’s government is under pressure to weaken European Union regulations in order to secure a US trade deal.
  • Labour’s Ian Lavery tells Business Insider the government plans to “use Brexit to recreate Dickensian working conditions and to bonfire those rights.”

LONDON – Theresa May has been accused of planning to create “Dickensian” working conditions after Brexit, after her new Brexit Secretary hired a chief of staff who has called for the UK to “[turn] back the clock” on workers’ rights.

The Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who replaced David Davis following his resignation last week, has hired former Conservative MP Nick de Bois as his new chief of staff.

De Bois has previously called for the UK government to “[roll] back the heavy hand of employment rules and legislation,” in the UK and end the “disadvantage” of EU regulations protecting workers.

Speaking in the House of Commons in 2013, De Bois told MPs that the “massive increase in employment regulation that came in from Europe” was a “disadvantage in the market.”

De Bois also suggested that British businesses could save billions of pounds every year by making staff redundant, if employment regulations were stripped back.

“In the small business sector alone, nearly one full-time employee a year is needed to deal with the growth in regulation,” he told MPs in 2010.

“Over the past decade [that is] equivalent to a cost of about £11 billion a year and there is no greater signal for turning back the clock.”

De Bois was an enthusiastic supporter for plans to make it harder for employees to use the employment tribunal system to make what he described as “vexatious claims” against their employers.

Making it more difficult for employees to make claims against firms would boost jobs and create a “sustainable economy,” De Bois said in 2011.

De Bois’ appointment was welcomed by Conservative Brexiteers on Monday.

David Davis’ former chief of staff Stewart Jackson MP, whose reappointment was reportedly blocked by Downing Street, described De Bois as a “patriot” and a “sound Brexiteer.”

The Brexit Secretary Raab has also previously called for EU protections for workers to be stripped back.

In 2011 Raab called EU employment protections which are “obstacles to British business,” to be scrapped.

In a report for the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, Raab called for an end to the EU’s Working Time Regulations, which restrict the number of hours an employee can be forced to work and guarantee a minimum amount of paid holiday each year.

“By limiting flexibility and adding to employers’ costs, the regulations impede job creation,” Raab wrote.

De Bois has also pushed for consumer regulations to be watered down. In 2012 he called on the then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to “take steps to reduce the number of food safety regulations that apply to voluntary clubs and organisations.”

A ‘bonfire’ of workers’ rights

Labour’s Chairman Ian Lavery told Business Insider that Raab and De Bois’ appointments showed that May’s government was planning a “bonfire” of workers’ rights.

“Last week they appointed Dominic Raab to lead negotiations, a man who’s cold and calculating outlook on life is characteristic of a Conservative party that is incapable of compassion,” Lavery told BI.

“Today we hear Raab’s top adviser will be former Tory MP Nick de Bois, who wants to ‘turn the back the clock’ on employment regulations.

“Labour will not stand by as an out of control Tory party try to use Brexit to recreate Dickensian working conditions and to bonfire those rights won by workers and trade unions over a century.”

The Department for Exiting the European Union was contacted for comment.

Trump pressures May to scrap EU regulations to win trade deal

Prime Minister May has insisted that the UK will stay aligned to EU rules on goods and workers’ rights after Brexit.

However, De Bois’ appointment comes as her government comes under heavy pressure from US president Donald Trump to hand America a “carve out” from EU regulations as part of any Brexit deal.

“I said (to May): ‘Make sure you have a carve-out, you have to have a carve-out’,” Trump told the Daily Mail.

“You can’t be shut out because we’re much bigger than the European Union, we’re more important from that standpoint.”

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