Monday, 2 February 2009

British jobs for British workers

Gordon Brown's periodic attempts to wrap himself in the union jack do himself no good and he has got hoist with his own petard with his 'British jobs for British workers' slogan. Regardless of the complexities of the Posted Workers Directive (of which I had never heard before) and of various legal cases, the underlying principles are clear: freedom of movement of labour within the EU and open competition for procurement contracts.

There's a head of steam behind all this and it's not surprising to see protectionist responses in a recession, but the more momentum they gather, the greater the risk of it turning into a depression.

Quite how the government is going to get out of this is difficult to see, complicated by the fact that different messages have been coming from Alan Johnson and Peter Mandelson, although the former has admitted that he spoke out of turn and has backed down. The room for manoeuvre is quite limited, as there is a contract and that contract is influenced by the fact that Portuguese and Italian workers are cheaper to employ than British ones.

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