MPs call for democratic control of any UK trade deals
ENGLISH AND WELSH Green Party leader Caroline Lucas is leading the demand for democratic oversight of any post-Brexit trade deals entered into by a UK government.
Tory Minister Liam Fox has been globe-trotting, talking up prospects of corporate trade deals with developing and commonwealth economies in the wake of the Brexit referendum in June 2016.
But critics of corporate trade deals warn that the back room deals can be heavily influenced by big money and lobbying by vested business interests – leading to threats to economic, social and environmental wellbeing.
Tabling a motion in parliament for all trade deals to require full parliamentary approval, Lucas said: “Britain is about to go through a period of monumental change – not least when it comes to our trade deals. We know the risks associated with bad deals – a race to the bottom on regulations, companies suing democratically elected governments and the outsourcing of jobs. These risks are heightened if such deals are rushed through without any proper scrutiny.
“The government must give parliament proper oversight of any new deals – whether that’s the touted deal with Trump or any new deal with Europe. At present deals are snuck through without a proper debate or yes/no vote – it’s time for an urgent democratic upgrade.”
Recent EU trade negotiations on CETA (with Canada) and stalled TTIP talks (with the United States) faced mammoth public backlashes over threats to workers rights, health protections, and environmental standards. Campaigners fear that Fox and other Tories are intent on pursuing a more extreme corporate trade policy.
“The fact that Fox is already starting up ‘unofficial’ trade talks with the US without any sort of parliamentary oversight should ring all sorts of alarm bells.” Nick Dearden
Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now added: “If the UK wants to have full control of its trade policy, it needs to develop democratic mechanisms to accompany it. The alternative, will not be taking back power, as was promised by Brexiteers, but losing power to a Trade Secretary who believes the rule of the market is the answer to every problem
“Modern trade agreements are increasingly not about tariffs but about making sure laws and regulations don’t obstruct the free flow of capital. Such ‘obstructions’ are likely to include public services like the NHS, labour rights, consumer standards and environmental protection. So it’s crucial that there is proper parliamentary oversight of these deals or we run the risk of free-market fundamentalists like Liam Fox junking vast swathes of the UK’s important legal protections without anyone being able to do anything about it.
“The fact that Fox is already starting up ‘unofficial’ trade talks with the US without any sort of parliamentary oversight should ring all sorts of alarm bells. Trump is unequivocal that he will only make trade deals that put the USA first, while May is desperate to ink anything to show that the UK has a trading future outside the European single market. That power imbalance means May is likely to concede all manner of ground to Trump for the sake of trying to shore up her own political credibility – and those concessions will carry a heavy price for British citizens.”
Picture courtesy of Global Justice Now
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