Liz Truss risks sparking another row with the EU that could lead to tariffs on UK exports if she tries to dilute workers’ rights too much, legal experts and union leaders have said.

The new Prime Minister is reportedly considering a review of workers’ rights as part of a wider ‘bonfire’ of 1,500 EU laws that she wants removed from UK law by the end of 2023.

Under the equal opportunities agreements in Lord Frost’s Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) sealed with the EU, the UK can deviate from the bloc’s rules but not diverge in a such an extent that it gives the UK a trade advantage over its rivals. on the Continent and in Ireland.

Catherine Barnard, a professor of EU law at the University of Cambridge and an expert on Brexit, said the deal allowed safeguards, including tariffs, to be imposed on either side if the rules of the game were not uniform.

“The [deal] allows the UK to deviate from EU rules on workers’ rights, but if the divergence affects trade and investment, the EU can launch the non-regression procedure against the UK” , she said.

“It involves consultation, followed by the creation of a special group of experts and ultimately retaliation against the UK if the UK is found to be in breach. It means tariffs,” she said.

Workers’ rights, including maximum working hours, equal pay for men and women, holiday and rest rights are enshrined in relevant EU laws, including the Working Time Directive .

As the so-called ‘Prime Minister Brexit Delivery’, Truss’s proposed timetable for getting rid of some EU laws has been accelerated with promises to remove all remaining EU regulations by the end of 2023.

But a significant divergence over rights would not only add strain to already strained relations with the EU, it would also spark a major row with unions.

Following Jacob Rees-Mogg’s statements, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has demanded assurances from the government that “hard-won” workers’ rights are not under attack.

As Brexit opportunities minister in Boris Johnson’s government, Rees-Mogg promised a bonfire of EU rules with a five-year expiry date, or sunset clause, on 1,500 pieces of legislation of the EU.

He told ministers it would reduce the regulatory burden on business, prompting unions to demand guarantees that workers’ rights were not among them.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Threatening hard-won workers’ rights is the last thing the country and workers need.

“Paid leave, equal pay for women and men, safe limits on working hours and parental leave are just some of the rights underpinned by retained EU law. These are all essential – not a pleasure to have.

The TUC said the UK was already falling behind the EU on workers’ rights in areas such as the gig economy, and if EU law was being eroded, inequalities and duties would be more difficult to correct in the future in Britain.

“Ministers are threatening to tear up workers’ legal rights while attacking their ability to defend their working conditions through collective action,” O’Grady said.

“The Conservatives promised to protect and improve workers’ rights. Now they seem determined to take a hammer from them instead.

The UK’s commitment to International Labor Organization (ILO) standards, including the right to strike, is also mentioned in the ACT.

The TUC has complained to the ILO about a new law rushed by Grant Shapps, targeting railway strikers, which allows employers to use agency workers.

In the event of a negative conclusion from the ILO, the EU could also intervene under the ATT, said Jeff Kenner, professor of European law at the University of Nottingham.

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