UK trade bill launched within hours of public ‘consultation’ closing

7 November 2017 - 12:45pm
Press release

Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox MP, launched a new trade bill today. Although the bill will return power over trade negotiations from the EU to the UK, that power has not reached the public: the bill launched within hours of a public consultation closing, meaning the input of thousands of responses from members of the public could not have been considered.

Many civil society groups fear that the trade bill will enable the government to bypass parliament in negotiating and signing trade deals, which increasingly cover issues including food safety standards, privatisation of public services like the NHS, and powers for corporations to sue the government in secret courts for creating regulations which affect their profits.

More than 130 MPs have already signed motions demanding that they have a role in outlining the terms of trade deals and approving or denying their ratification, that the public is meaningfully consulted on their content, and that negotiations are not held in secret, among other issues.

War on Want Senior Trade Campaigner Mark Dearn said: “It’s clear from the decision to launch the trade bill within hours of the government’s consultation closing that it has utter disdain for public opinion.

“Thousands of people took the time to respond to the government’s call for input because they care about transparency and democracy in this country – we would like to know what Mr Fox has to say to them.

“This bill is being presented as a mere technicality to transition existing EU trade deals, but it’s about much more than that. Mr Fox repeatedly tells us a deal with Trump is his number one priority, and that means everything from the NHS, to food safety and climate change rules could be on the table in a secretly negotiated trade deal which MPs would be effectively powerless to stop.”

War on Want was one of many civil society groups which responded to the white paper consultation. More than 2,000 War on Want supporters also submitted responses to the Department for International Trade.

War on Want found the white paper to be wholly couched in the ideology of free trade, making unfounded claims such as, “the British people have decided to be a global, free-trading nation”, while committing to support trade that is “transparent and inclusive” without proposing any meaningful policy commitments for doing so.

War on Want remains deeply concerned that the approach the government displayed to parliamentary scrutiny during EU trade deals, TTIP and, more recently, CETA, highlight its willingness to bypass parliament in order to secure trade deals crafted in the interests of big business.

ENDS

For more information, call Mark Dearn on 020 7324 5054, or 07804289680.

Notes to editors:

Trade bill white paper

Government announces trade bill

War on Want response to trade bill white paper

Early Day Motions on trade transparency:

https://www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/128

https://www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/166

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