Since the early 1970s, there have been attempts – largely under the banner of a so-called European Social Model (ESM) – to introduce a social dimension to European Union (EU) integration. Over time, and despite frequent UK opposition, these attempts have resulted in the creation of a patchwork of European labour laws. However, this has not altered the status quo which prioritizes economic over social integration. This article analyses the way in which the ESM has attempted to ‘europeanize’ national labour law systems between 1973 and 2016, with due regard to the UK. The article concludes that it is difficult to speak of a clearly defined ESM which develops a social dimension to European integration that has had a significant positive influence on the UK. This became evident in the run-up to and outcome of the ‘Brexit’ referendum when rhetoric on the EU’s contribution to workers’ rights in the UK appeared insufficient to encourage a majority to support ‘Remain’.