Revealed: UK Government has spent almost £150,000 preventing public release of trade deal notes

Revealed: UK Government has spent almost £150,000 preventing public release of trade deal notes

Date: 9 November 2023
Campaigns: Trade

THE UK Government has spent almost £150,000 of taxpayers’ money to date preventing the public release of notes from trade deal talks with the US and other countries, POLITICO reports  in their Morning Trade UK Newsletter.

UK-based campaign group Global Justice Now obtained almost entirely redacted copies of notes from trade talks between the UK and various countries including the US in 2019. The notes caught attention in the 2019 general election campaign when Jeremy Corbyn released unredacted leaked copies of US-UK trade documents.

Global Justice Now has since continued to challenge the government in court over whether redactions in remaining notes meet the government’s Freedom of Information (FOI) obligations, with the latest appeal hearing on Friday 3 November. The outcome of the ongoing tribunals could broaden the scope of what is revealed through future FOI requests, and force transparency around future trade talks carried out post-Brexit.

The UK Government is rumoured to be moving toward a closing of the long-drawn out UK-India trade deal. Health experts and campaigners from across the Global North to South have called measures the UK Government is attempting to push through the deal “another act of global vandalism” which will lead to wholly avoidable deaths. The proposed measures were brought to public attention through previous leaks.

The UK Government introduced a Trade Bill in 2017 to enable its independent trade policy following Brexit. However, campaigners have criticised the bill’s lack of provision to make trade policy accountable to Parliament and the wider public, calling the UK’s trade negotiations “opaque” and “undemocratic”.

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now said: “Public scrutiny is the people’s weapon against corporate capture of trade policy. The UK government clearly gets this as it has so far spent nearly £150,000 of taxpayers’ money fighting this case, just to stop us getting basic info about what they’re trading away in our name. But we shouldn’t have to rely on leaks and anonymous media reports to know what’s happening.

“We’ve seen what happens when trade deals are signed in the dark – look at the way Boris Johnson signed on to a deal with Australia that was terrible for farmers, or the way the UK is currently demanding India make changes that would make medicines more expensive for the NHS. Winning this case won’t stop the government being able to push a corporate agenda in trade talks, but it will stop them keeping it a secret until it’s too late to stop. Which ultimately would be more democratic.”

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