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Fines all round! EU blames everybody for illegal employment

Takes aim at contractor chain, hits entire market instead

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As Bismark didn't quite point out, both sausages and laws are desirable and necessary things (mmm, sausages!), but you don't particularly want to be there when they're made. Recent experience inside the Brussels saucisson factory rather brought this home to me.

To set the scene: they're trying to get EU-wide laws covering illegal immigrants and those who employ them. Who should be responsible for paying to send them home, should they get their wages sent on to them after they have been, who should pay any taxes due, that sort of thing.

There were a couple of odd amendments proposed (that employers should pay the cost of repatriation....eh? It's the State that has failed by letting them in, not the company) but in the large part, whatever your views about immigration and how open it should be, the majority of the discussions were about nuts and bolts sorts of things. Until, until, this:

In view of the prevalence of subcontracting in certain affected sectors, it is necessary to ensure that all the undertakings in a chain of subcontracting are held jointly and severally liable to pay financial sanctions against an employer at the end of the chain who employs illegally staying third-country nationals.

You what? There's a couple of other clauses that ram home the same point, so it's not an abberation, it's meant to be in there. It's also a proposal from the EU Commission itself, not something smuggled in by one or other xenophobic nutjob. This really is what our European Lords and Masters want the law to be.

The liability daisy-chain

Firstly there's the appalling drafting of it. The way it's written, it applies only to those at the end of the subcontracting chain who employ such naughty naughty labour. Imagine, for example, a case involving tomatoes and supermarkets. If the tomato picker is an illegal, then everyone in the chain is jointly and severally liable. But then so is everyone if the supermarket, at the other end of the chain does. But if the wholesaler in the middle does then everyone isn't liable, for the illegality isn't happening at the end of the chain. It's simply appallingly written and drafted.

The second problem is that we've just ripped up the idea of limited liability... of strict liability as well. You're only responsible in law for those things which you (whether a natural person or a legal one) do or cause to have done on your behalf. You're not, and cannot be, held responsible for what other legal or natural persons do that you've not asked them to do nor that you know nothing about.

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Next page: Ripples of guilt

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