Post-Brexit trade deals threaten Welsh food, jobs and the NHS

Tuesday, 22 May, 2018

Trade deals with US and others could undermine devolution

Campaigners demand a voice in trade for Welsh Assembly

A post-Brexit trade deal with the United States could threaten Wales’ food standards, manufacturing jobs and the viability of the NHS. That’s the finding of a new briefing released by UNISON Cymru Wales, Global Justice Now and others at Wales’ TUC Congress in Llandudno today.

The trade union and social justice groups believe the danger of post-Brexit trade deals is so great that it could fundamentally undermine devolution. They are demanding a voice for Wales’ government and Assembly, and calling for Wales to withhold consent from Trade Secretary Liam Fox’s Trade Bill, which is making its way through the House of Commons. 

The briefing, written by Global Justice Now, makes clear that modern trade deals go well beyond tariffs – affecting food standards, public services, environment and ability to regulate big business. It looks at specific areas of concern in a potential US-UK trade deal including:

  • Food standards. The US has made clear it would insist on access to UK markets of lower standard meat than we currently produce, including meat from animals given large quantities of antibiotics, steroids and hormones, chicken washed in chlorine, with less labelling of food, and less protection of special, local foods like Welsh Caerphilly, traditional Welsh cider or Welsh lamb.
  • The NHS and public services. A trade deal could allow US healthcare corporations to bid for parts of the NHS that have been contracted out, a step towards full privatisation of the NHS. It is also likely to mean more expensive medicines – leading to increase the NHS deficit or leave patients without many effective new drugs.
  • Chemicals. The US government is staunchly opposed to EU chemical regulations. Their demands would lead to less safe products on our shelves and could impact on jobs in Wales where chemical products are manufactured.
  • Corporate courts. A US deal is likely to include an Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS), or ‘corporate court’, which would open the Welsh government to being sued by big business from the US for making environmental or public interest regulations. 

Hugh McDyer, UNISON Cymru Wales organiser said,

“When people in Wales supported devolution, they didn’t expect their power to be undermined by trade deals negotiated in secret by the Westminster government. But that’s exactly what could happen unless we amend Liam Fox’s Trade Bill. It cannot be right for the British Trade Secretary to negotiate away the food standards or public services that we supposedly control, without the government or Assembly here having any formal input.”      

Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now said,

“We know Liam Fox is already talking trade with more than a dozen countries, including the United States. Unfortunately these deals are taking place behind closed doors, with elected representatives in Cardiff or in London unable to properly scrutinise his actions or amend or stop any trade deal he finally agrees. This is a massive democratic deficit because modern trade deals cover so many different areas of the economy and society. If we care about our food standards, our NHS, our jobs, and even our ability to take democratic decisions, we’ve got to amend – or stop – the Trade Bill.”

Notes for editors

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