Peter Mandelson: 'The solution is not to pull the door shut'
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has reiterated his warning that the UK must resist the temptation to "retreat into economic protectionism".
In a reference to the recent strikes over the employment of foreign staff, Lord Mandelson said he understood the "legitimate anxiety about jobs".
Yet speaking at a CBI dinner in Birmingham, he said it would be wrong to limit labour mobility.
He said he defended Britons' right to work in Europe and vice versa.
Lord Mandelson said that openness to both trade and labour mobility drove the UK economy in the good times, and also "needed to be preserved in the tough times".
'Right to work'
The recent wildcat strikes at various energy facilities across the UK centred on the Lindsey Oil Refinery in Lincolnshire, owned by French company Total.
British manufacturing is a global industry with everything to lose from a rise in global protectionism
British staff at the facility walked out in protest at the awarding of a subcontract deal to an Italian firm that brought in its own workers.
The strikers insisted their protest was not xenophobic, rather that they were concerned they were being denied the right to carry out work.
Under the deal that ended the strike on Wednesday, Total has agreed to create 102 new jobs that will be advertised locally through a subcontractor.
Lord Mandelson said that while he welcomed the decision to return to work at Lindsey, "it is important to be clear that the resolution does not put in doubt our openness to the European Union or EU workers in the UK".
"Or the opportunities for the tens of thousands of British workers on contract elsewhere in Europe."
He added: "British manufacturing is a global industry with everything to lose from a rise in global protectionism."
Under the EU's Posting of Workers Directive, foreign workers can be brought in on a temporary basis, as long as they enjoy the same rights and pay as their local counterparts.
Total and its sub-contractors were therefore working within the law when the contract was awarded to the Italian company.
However, the European Commission said on Wednesday night confirmed that it had commissioned studies "to better understand the impact of the directive on the ground and the consequences of European Court rulings".
During Lord Mandelson's visit to the CBI dinner, he was due to be presented with a 10-point action plan on how to save the region's automotive sector.
Compiled by leaders from the industry who attended this week's West Midlands Auto Industry Summit, its recommendations include that the government temporarily helps to support wages, and does more to help maintain credit insurance.
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