New Trade Bill entrenches government power to do deals behind closed doors

Thursday, 19 March, 2020

Reacting to the government’s introduction today of a new Trade Bill, Jean Blaylock, trade campaigner at Global Justice Now said:

"Today we hear rumours that concrete trade negotiations are currently taking place in secret between the US and the UK. At the same time, the government has introduced a new Trade Bill [1] that entrenches its power to do deals behind closed doors without needing to tell parliament or the people what it is doing. If this feeble excuse for a bill goes through, we could be signed up to a high risk, damaging US trade deal without any democratic control.

“Trade negotiations can have far-reaching effects on our society’s standards, regulations and public services. In the current COVID-19 crisis, it is clearer than ever that our lives depend upon a strong and effective publicly run NHS. We need to know whether the government is keeping to its promises that the NHS is not on the table in a trade deal with the US or whether the details of negotiations are undermining that. This Trade Bill should make it a requirement to update parliament on what is going on and to conduct negotiations openly and transparently.

“This new bill is also a slap in the face to the concerns of many in parliament, including some in the governing party, who worked on the previous Trade Bill to introduce some of the basic scrutiny procedures that should be routine in a modern democracy. Five different parliamentary committees [2] have said that current procedures for ratifying trade deals are inadequate, yet the government’s response is to strip the bill of any mention of ratification. What is needed is to guarantee MPs a vote.”

 

 

Notes:

  1. https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2019-21/trade.html 
  2. The five committees are: International Trade Committee, Constitution Committee, Scottish Affairs Committee, Joint Committee on Human Rights, Exiting the EU Committee

Image: Wilson Hui/Flickr