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Sunday 27 May 2012

Booker Lashes Out At EU

Another week, another slice of anti-EU paranoia from Christopher Booker, who continues to use his pulpit at the Telegraph to perpetuate the myth that “Brussels” is governing us, and that our Government in Westminster is therefore powerless. In support of his argument, The Great Man cites two directives and peddles a scary phrase to frighten his more gullible readers.

And that new phrase is “occupied field”. Yes, “Brussels” has an “occupied field”. This is also warned against by a number of anti-EU groups, and of course has already attracted adverse comment from Dan, Dan the Oratory Man, occasional Tory and MEP. The meaning of this phrase is meant to convey to all subjugated citizens of the supposed centralised state an area where their Governments have surrendered.

The area in question is employment law: Booker asserts that the reason Adrian Beecroft’s frankly batshit proposals were dropped was all down to the rotten Eurocrats. But a look at the two pieces of legislation he specifically mentions does not stand up his assertion. For instance, there is Directive 94/33/EC on the subject of young workers (Beecroft talked of more easily employing children).

The Directive, it must be stressed, does not forbid the employment of anyone over the age of 12. Yes, that’s right, there are provisions for 13- and 14-year-olds to do “light work”, which in the time-honoured tradition of Euro-Speak, is not defined with any strictness. So there is nothing in that Directive preventing the employment of quite young folks – well under the ages of voting, or even consent.

If Beecroft, or his champion Booker, are suggesting that preventing those under the age of 13 from being employed in a workplace is A Bad Thing, then perhaps they should speak up and have the debate. I somehow doubt they would get very far. Ah, but there is also parental leave and flexible working hours, and here Booker quotes Directive 2010/18/EU.

Sadly, one thing is clear when inspecting this text: it has nothing to do with flexible working hours, and therefore has no impact on them. But it does address the right to parental leave – and the “right” to that leave is all it addresses. My reading of the directive is that it provides for four months of leave, taken up to the eighth birthday of the child. Four months shared between partners over eight years.

And that is going to hamper the operation of businesses how, exactly? In any case, neither of these directives was imposed on the UK: they were agreed by all member states including us. Yes, we agreed to them, and what any businessman, Adrian Beecroft included, finds unacceptable in either I would be fascinated to know. A very small concession in exchange for free movement of labour – in and out of the UK.

This is more scaremongering just for the sake of it. And that’s not good enough.

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