Thursday, 8 February 2018

Take Action For Trade Democracy

I do not care that George Soros is Jewish. I care that he is not British. In similar vein, and retweeted to me and others by the redoutable Lexiteer John Hendy QC, comes this:

There are two facts that everyone should know about the UK’s trade policy as we prepare to leave the EU. The first is that modern trade agreements have a huge impact – for good and for bad – on many areas of life including jobs, the environment, health, development, food and inequality. The second is that under current rules, the UK government has unchecked powers to negotiate and sign trade agreements. 

The government has the power to: decide who to start negotiations with; set its own priorities and objectives for these negotiations; conduct negotiations, often in secret; and conclude and sign the eventual deal. There are no procedures in place to ensure trade negotiations are accountable to Parliament or the public.

Incredibly, MPs have no powers to scrutinise ongoing negotiations and provide direction. The public has no right of input or to know what is being done. Parliament is eventually asked to ratify the agreed final deal, but in practice the procedure is a nominal one and MPs are not even guaranteed a vote on whether to approve or reject trade deals.

The UK has not been responsible for trade policy for 40 years, so it is understandable that our procedure for negotiating and ratifying trade agreements needs some reform. Yet, to date, the government has not taken steps to update this procedure.

In November 2017, the government introduced a Trade Bill to enable its independent trade policy after Brexit. This is a key piece of legislation and provided a clear opportunity for the government to demonstrate its commitment to transparency and democracy in trade policy. However, at present the Bill lacks any provision to make trade policy accountable to Parliament. 

What is TJM calling for?

TJM is calling for:

1. The right of parliament to set a thorough mandate to govern each trade negotiation, with a remit for the devolved administrations 
2. The right of the public to be consulted as part of setting that mandate 
3. Full transparency in negotiations 
4. The right of parliament to amend and to reject trade deals, with full debates and scrutiny guaranteed and a remit for the devolved administrations 
5. The right of parliament to review trade deals and withdraw from them in a timely manner 

Take action 

Take action for trade democracy by supporting TJM's members and partners’ actions:

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