Brexit begins: We must ensure trade justice

31 March 2017 - 12:30pm

With the UK government triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, we have now entered a two-year phase of negotiations which, among a host of other issues, will address our future trade relationship with the EU.

It is currently thought to be likely that negotiations on a UK-EU trade deal, whether interim or otherwise, will not take place until key issues including EU migrants’ rights, the Brexit ‘divorce bill’ and the Irish border have been addressed. This may mean that no trade negotiations will take place until 2018.

War on Want has already outlined that a UK outside the EU will be in control of its trade policy for the first time in 40 years: we must ensure that we build a positive trade and investment agenda for the UK and the world .

War on Want has a long history of campaigning for trade justice. Most recently, we have been at the forefront of EU and UK campaigning against the controversial EU-USA and EU-Canada ‘new generation’ trade deals, TTIP and CETA.

Informed by our experience of working on these deals alongside our long history of working alongside our partners in the global South , we believe that to create trade justice we must adhere to key principles which apply to any trade deals we negotiate.

While some of these principles will apply directly to some deals more than others, we believe them to all be fundamental to ensuring trade justice.

Key principles for trade justice

·         The global South: In line with international commitments, Southern countries must be free to choose policies to grow sustainably and inclusively: they must not be forced into commodity dependence, prevented from industrialising or holding sovereignty over their own natural resources. Trade policies must also align to international climate change commitments.

·         Social, health, environmental protections: Rules to protect and safeguard society and the environment – in particular around food safety, banking regulations and climate change - must be upheld in trade negotiations and not seen as mere ‘non-tariff barriers’ to trade.

·         Protect the NHS and public services: The privatisation of public services, including the NHS, must not be mandated by any trade deals: trade deals must not restrict the ability of governments to run public services wholly in the public interest, nor should they inhibit governments from renationalising public services. 

·         No ‘corporate courts’: Equality before the law must be upheld, with governments guaranteed their right to regulate. Privileged legal systems for foreign investors – e.g., ISDS, the ‘reformed’ Investor Court System (ICS) found in CETA, or the proposed Multilateral Investment Court (MIC) – must not be included in any trade deal. 

·         Workers’ rights / human rights: Trade deals must not inhibit the ability of states to realise international human rights and labour rights obligations.

·         Democracy and transparency: Parliamentary processes must be in place to ensure the highest standards of democracy and transparency in trade negotiations and ratification.

Trade and Brexit briefings

Below are briefings we have helped to compile alongside our allies in the UK Trade Justice Movement:


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