A decision has not been reached on whether to allow Britain to maintain its opt-out from the European Union (EU) Working Time Directive after talks ended without agreement.

Following the breakdown in discussion, the UK can continue to choose not to take the EU 48-hour week.

The European Parliament had proposed that the choice to opt-out should be removed gradually within three years.

Commenting on the outcome, employment relations minister, Pat McFadden said: “We refused to be pushed into a bad deal for Britain. We have said consistently that we will not give up the opt-out and we have delivered on that pledge.”

Mr McFadden said it was vital that employees maintained the right to choose the hours they worked and he said that in a recession it was important to allow people the option of working overtime.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson agreed with Mr McFadden and said: “Millions of people are better off because of the opt-out”.

The Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber has reacted to the decision by saying that the union is disappointed that the UK’s culture of working long hours will not be stopped.