Civil society groups set out 'red lines' for Liam Fox’s post-Brexit trade deals

Saturday, 27 October, 2018

- Civil society campaigners fear that post-Brexit trade could push down health and environmental standards
- Demand for democratic say over trade policy, protection of public services and rejection of ‘corporate courts’ 

A coalition of campaigners, trade unionists and faith groups have issued a set of ‘red lines’ to Trade Secretary Liam Fox, demanding that trade negotiations open up to public and parliamentary scrutiny and aren’t used as a means of pushing down standards post-Brexit. The call comes at the close of Fox’s consultations on four potential post-Brexit trade deals – with the US, Australia, New Zealand and accession to the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The coalition statement is based on concerns that post-Brexit trade deals could unleash a wave of deregulation that would affect food quality, workers’ rights, public services and financial standards. For example, a trade deal with the US could see chlorinated chicken and hormone-impregnated beef on UK supermarket shelves – products which do not meet current EU standards.

The ‘red lines’ include:

  • Make trade negotiations fully democratic and transparent
  • Give watertight protection to public services like the NHS
  • Guarantee as a minimum the level of workers’ rights, financial standards and high quality food we already possess by preserving the government the right to regulate.
  • Exclude ‘corporate courts’ (investor-state dispute settlement system) and use procurement contracts to support local communities
  • Exclude so-called ‘e-commerce’ chapters which give big tech corporations further rights over our data  
  • Make any trade deals subservient to human rights, public health, food standards, animal welfare, environment, biodiversity and climate change commitments.

Ruth Bergan of the Trade Justice Movement, which co-ordinated the statement, said:

“We appreciate being asked to contribute to a consultation on Britain joining these trade deals after Brexit. However, without proper parliamentary control of trade deals, it’s too likely that our deeply held concerns will simply be ignored. That’s a problem for everyone in Britain because modern trade deals affect every aspect of our lives – from the food we eat, to the health care we receive, to the controls we can place on big finance. If we don’t want trade deals to be used to unleash a wave of deregulation post Brexit, we need to get active now.” 

The full list of signatories includes Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Global Justice Now, National Justice & Peace Network, SumOfUs, Trade Justice Scotland Coalition, UNISON and War on Want.