Trade democracy


House of parliament UK

Parliament and the people currently have no real say over post-Brexit trade deals. As the UK leaves the EU, the powers that the European Parliament had over trade are not being transferred to the UK parliament. Instead, they are being grabbed by the trade minister. It's like handing Liz Truss a blank cheque to change the rules over our food standards, our public services like the NHS, and corporate courts – with MPs reduced practically to spectators.

This is a massive democratic deficit. Thousands of us have taken action, and parliament agrees with us. Earlier this year, parliament amended the government’s Trade Bill to put in place proper modern democratic scrutiny procedures for trade deals – an important victory. Faced with the risk of being defeated on this, the government is running scared. It has now dropped the bill completely rather than accept the need for parliament to be guaranteed a say on trade deals.

As a result, parliament will not be able to stop a toxic trade deal – nor can they amend it, or set red lines from the start to steer it in a different direction. The risks of a post-Brexit deal with the US are high, but MPs may find themselves powerless. In negotiations over a future trading relationship with the EU, MEPs in the European parliament will have more say than MPs.

If we are to see trade work for people and not just big business, we have to ensure that the way trade deals are struck is transparent and democratic.