Campaigners warn Liam Fox: don’t sign ‘big business’ trans-pacific trade deal

24 October 2018 - 6:00am
Press release

Photo: Leadnow Canada CC BY-SA 2.0

  • Deal would ‘threaten food standards and public services’
  • Fox accused of ‘pre-empting debate about closeness to EU standards post Brexit’

Campaigners warned today that a government proposal to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership risks a ‘race to the bottom’ in food and financial standards post-Brexit. It also poses threats to the NHS and other public services, and would leave Britain at the mercy of a ‘corporate court’ system which would allow overseas business to sue the British government in secret courts for regulations which they believe damage their profits.

Responding to a consultation from the Department for International Trade which proposes acceding to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (1) campaign groups War on Want, Global Justice Now and Trade Justice Movement also suggest that signing the TPP ‘jumps the gun’ in terms of public debate about how close we stay to the EU’s common rulebook post Brexit, and would make a European customs union far more difficult to agree.

The new briefing finds the TPP would:

  • Entrench the ‘corporate court’ system that gives multinational corporations special powers to bully and sue governments (2)
  • Undermine food standards – threatening to allow chlorine chicken and steroid-fed beef into the UK, lowering the quality of food and jeopardising farmers’ livelihoods
  • Undermine public services across the world – threatening the NHS and the ability of the developing countries in the deal to build their own public services
  • Give more power to big tech companies to use and abuse our data, and prevent developing countries from building their digital sectors, which are vital for their development
  • Move Britain closer to a US-style system of deregulation that would make it harder to work closely with the EU

Jean Blaylock from War on Want said:

“We are right in the middle of a huge political debate about how close the UK stays to its EU trade relationships post-Brexit. Parliament has not yet made a decision on this issue. So it’s completely premature for the Department for International Trade to suggest we should join a trade deal which would make it near impossible to keep our current standards and continue to be aligned to the EU rulebook. Our fear is that this is an attempt to prejudge that decision and force post Brexit UK down the road of a deregulated US-style economic regime which we know Dr Fox supports.” 

Nick Dearden from Global Justice Now said:

“The hard Brexiteers believe that Brexit can achieve all manner of miracles – but the idea of Britain as a pacific state is surely far fetched even for them. Here in Europe we defeated a very similar deal to this – called TTIP (3) – because we didn’t want big business to have more control over our laws, our public services and our societies. Liam Fox obviously hopes enough people are looking the other way so he can begin to sign us up to something equally toxic. But if he’s serious, we’ll fight this deal every step of the way.”

Press Contacts / 020 7324 5065


(1) The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade and investment deal between 11 Asia-Pacific countries. When the US left the deal last year, it was renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and certain clauses were put on hold. For ease, we still use the term TPP.

(2) The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system allows overseas investors to sue governments in secret tribunals for treating them ‘unfairly’. In practice this has seen cases brought for putting cigarettes in plain packaging, raising the minimum wage or placing a moratorium on fracking.

(3) The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) was a proposed trade deal between the EU and US, shelved after 3 years of protest and public concern in 2016.     

(4) The full briefing can be found at:

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