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Parliamentarians furious as UK Australia trade deal passes with no parliamentary debate

Outrage that first post Brexit trade deal has passed through its scrutiny phase without parliamentary debate also shared by Sustain and other NGOs in letter to The Times. 

Arial shot of industrial animal production. Credit: Dan Prat

Arial shot of industrial animal production. Credit: Dan Prat

Parliamentarians have expressed their outrage that the first post Brexit trade deal has passed through its scrutiny phase without parliamentarians having a chance to have their say on behalf of constituents. The deal with Australia now moves to ratification by ministers in autumn, despite multiple pledges that there would be a debate first.

A coalition of NGOs, including Sustain, had a letter published in the Times this Thursday 21 July saying (full text and signatories below):

"The impact assessment for the deal was published only after it had been signed. Proposals to give MPs a vote on the deal were rebuffed. Data indicating huge job losses in  food and farming was withheld. Despite a promise from ministers to allow time, the deal has passed the scrutiny stage without even a Commons debate. This matters not only for the  concerns about  this deal, from potential deforestation to the use of dangerous pesticides in Australia, but for the precedent it sets."

Speaking to BBC's Farming Today programme on 21 July 2022, Anthony Mangnall MP (Conservative Totnes) said:

"I sit on the International Trade Committee and it is absolutely essential that the new trade deals that we pass in the United Kingdom are given the proper time and scrutiny in the House of Commons and that, after all, is what we were promised in 2019, 2000 and 2021 and indeed this year by nearly every Secretary of State and by Defra ministers and by junior trade ministers.”

Ruth Bergan, Director of Trade Justice Movement commented:

“This government has been absolutely shameless in ignoring calls from parliament for more scrutiny of this deal and has effectively run down the clock. This is the UK’s first post Brexit trade deal and it deserves proper attention and scrutiny."

Last week, fresh data showing that food and farming would be the hardest hit by the deal, thanks to an FOI laid by Labour's former trade minister Emily Thornberry. Farming Unions told Politico that millions of pounds and thousands of pounds could be lost to the sector.

Fresh polling, commissioned by the Trade Justice Movement and Global Justice Now, showed that 78 per cent of Britons want MPs to debate the pros and cons of new trade deals before they come into force. And 70 per cent believe parliament should be guaranteed a vote on whether or not a trade deal goes ahead.

Kath Dalmeny from Sustain said: 

“ UK farmers are facing an uncertain future so it is remarkable that the government is racing to sign a trade deal that clearly threatens their livelihoods and that MPs won’t have a chance to ask questions. We know UK farmers will face unfair competition from Australian food produced using pesticides banned in the UK. Why is this not being debated? Parliamentarians should call a halt to this process until it has been scrutinised properly.”

Campaigners will now look to Parliament to make its views known when the Trade Bill that will usher in the deal comes before Parliament on 6 September.

 

Full text of the letter

Sir, Since agreeing its “fantastic” trade deal with Australia last summer, the British government has continually restricted public and parliamentary scrutiny over its contents.

The impact assessment for the deal was published only after it had been signed. Proposals to give MPs a vote on the deal were rebuffed. Data indicating huge job losses in  food and farming was withheld. Despite a promise from ministers to allow time, the deal has passed the scrutiny stage without even a Commons debate. This matters not only for the  concerns about  this deal, from potential deforestation to the use of dangerous pesticides in Australia, but for the precedent it sets. Next on the list for “Global Britain” are the Gulf States, India and Malaysia, and it is reasonable to fear that climate  change and human rights may be sidelined too.

Australia has yet to ratify the deal, and there is still time for UK ministers to extend the scrutiny process. We urge them to do so.

Kath Dalmeny chief executive, Sustain; Chris Sherwood chief executive, RSPCA; Ruth Bergan director, Trade Justice Movement; Nick Dearden director, Global Justice Now; Sarah Williams Greener UK; Rob Percival head of food policy, Soil Association; Josie Cohen head of policy and campaigns, PAN UK; Leah Sullivan senior trade campaigner, War on Want; Kierra Box    trade campaigner, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland; Nick Palmer head of Compassion in World Farming UK 

You can read this story in the Independent here and letter to the Times available here

 

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Published 21 Jul 2022

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