Detached, Hostile, Adaptable and Liberalising: The Chameleon Qualities of the UK's Relationship with EU Social Policy

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In this article, we review the EU’s significance for social policies in the UK. The EU has a limited legal role or institutional capacity to directly regulate the social policies of its member states. This role is even more limited in the case of non-eurozone countries. There are a handful of EU policy measures which have had effects on social policy in the UK. However, these effects have not changed the institutional arrangements for making, organising and delivering social policy, which remain firmly in the hands of UK governments. In consequence, a ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’ result has relatively limited implications for social policy, except in the case of specific social groups: notably for UK and other EU nationals who have lived and worked in at least one other EU country. Other EU legislation and regulation is compatible with the current and historical policy preferences of UK governments and political parties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228–237
Number of pages10
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


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