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Wednesday 17th
posted by Luke James in Britain

TUC leader calls on European Parliament chief to derail PM’s scheme

DON’T let David Cameron use “EU reform” to slash workers’ rights, Frances O’Grady will tell European Parliament president Martin Schulz today.

Meeting Mr Schulz in Brussels this afternoon, the TUC general secretary will say he must “stand up” to the Tory Prime Minister’s demands.

“We reject the false choice between leaving the EU or staying in an EU stripped of protections for workers, consumers and the environment,” she said before the meeting.

The German Social Democrat MEP will meet Mr Cameron at Downing Street tomorrow.

He is officially visiting Britain to attend a commemorative event marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

But the Prime Minister has scheduled a separate breakfast meeting at which he will lobby Mr Schulz to accept Tory plans for EU reform.

Mr Cameron came clean last week over his desire to bin workers’ rights as part of a deal to keep Britain in the EU.

The Tory told MPs that the EU’s social chapter, which includes employment and health and safety laws, has “never been acceptable to the UK.”

Mr Cameron wants an exemption from current EU workers’ rights, such as the right to 20 days’ paid holiday and protections for agency workers, as well a moratorium on new employment laws.

He is also demanding a ban on migrants from inside the EU being able to claim in-work benefits until they have lived in Britain for four years.

In talks with Mr Schulz at the European Parliament today, Ms O’Grady will put pressure on him to resist Mr Cameron’s attack on workers’ rights.

She said: “EU law is in many cases the last frontier for British workers — take that away and they will be left with no protections.

“I’m asking the president of the European Parliament to stand up to David Cameron, for British workers and for workers everywhere in Europe.”

But democracy campaign No2EU said that the EU has always had a poor record on protecting jobs and living standards.

Spokesman Brian Denny also warned that the TUC and Labour had played into Mr Cameron’s hands by announcing they will support EU membership “come hell or high water.”

He told the Star: “The agency workers directive clearly does not protect these vulnerable workers and ‘social Europe’ does not protect the hundreds of millions of workers suffering under EU-imposed austerity.

“Workers are no longer prepared to listen to ludicrous claims that the EU, which is giving us [EU-US trade deal] TTIP and endless privatisation, will somehow hand down socialism to us, it’s nonsense.”

The Prime Minister also faces a growing rebellion from his own backbenchers over government interference in the EU referendum.

They oppose Mr Cameron’s plan to scrap the “purdah” rules that ensures government neutrality in the 28 days before elections or referendums.

A leaked letter shows that Europe Minister David Lidington assured Tory MPs that taxpayer cash will not be spent on pro-EU propaganda in the final four weeks of the campaign.

But a Downing Street spokeswoman refused to rule out public money being used for pro-EU mail shots before then.

And as the European Referendum Bill reached committee stage yesterday, Labour MPs backed an amendment to extend the official election period to 16 weeks.