Brussels Break Down
Brussels talks on the EU Working Time Directive broke up in the early hours of this morning without agreement, with the UK successfully resisting pressure to accept the removal of the right to opt-out of the maximum 48-hours week.
A meeting of the EU's Conciliation Committee was unable to resolve differences between the European Parliament and member states over whether to retain the opt-out or not.
The UK and other countries held firm against a European Parliament amendment to the Working Time Directive that would have phased out the opt-out in three years.
Employment Relations Minister Pat McFadden said:
"We have said consistently that we would not give up the opt-out and that continues to be the case.
"We argued that everyone has the right to basic protections surrounding the hours that they work, but also the right to choose those hours.
"Choice over working hours has operated successfully in the UK and in other Member States for many years.
"In the current downturn it is more important than ever that people keep the right to put more money in their pockets by working longer hours if they wish. We refused to be pushed into a bad deal for Britain."
Talks will now be reconvened for later this month, although it will clearly be a challenge to bridge the gap between Member States and the European Parliament.