"The law that P&O are allegedly relying on was introduced as a result of EU directives... He [Starmer] would have kept us unable to change it... He would have made it impossible to protect UK employees".

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

March 22, 2022

Facts

This came after P&O ferries sacked 800 workers without notice in March. Mr Johnson was suggesting that the UK could not improve worker rights while it was part of the EU, blaming EU directives. 

These directives set out minimum standards for worker rights. They don’t stop EU member states increasing protections. Article 5 of the EU directive on collective redundancy specifically enshrines the right of EU member states to introduce more favourable worker protections. 

It says: “This Directive shall not affect the right of Member States to apply or to introduce laws, regulations or administrative provisions which are more favourable to workers or to promote or to allow the application of collective agreements more favourable to workers.” 

Both Spain and Ireland have outlawed the practice of fire and rehire,  the law Johnson is referring to. 

Steve Peers, professor of EU Law at the University of Essex, called Johnson’s remarks “profoundly false”, adding: “The EU directive set only minimum standards, so the UK could have legislated for higher levels of worker protection.” 

Verdict 

The Prime Minister was misleading the House of Commons. According to the Ministerial Code,  “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.  Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” Boris Johnson was misleading parliament in defiance of the Ministerial Code, in theory, a resignation offence.

We approached Mr Johnson’s office, the Cabinet Office and the No 10 Press Office to give the Prime Minister a chance to comment, but received no response. 

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