Desperate Brexit trade deals are likely to be grubby

by Luke Lythgoe | 21.08.2018

As we scramble to make ends meet post-Brexit, we’ll be tempted to cut corners on animal rights, human rights and a cleaner planet. It has already begun.

“Brexit, with the right decisions, can enhance our natural environment,” claimed former Vote Leave frontman Michael Gove, now environment secretary, back in March. Brexit will be used to “strengthen and enhance workers’ rights” Theresa May pledged ahead of last year’s disastrous election. Meanwhile “respect for human rights” is apparently one of the things underpinning her Chequers proposal.

A clean environment, healthy workers, standing up for human rights – these are all values held by a majority of Brits. But we’re already starting to see them abandoned amidst the pressures of Brexit. This is most apparent in the desperate scramble for post-Brexit trade deals to make up for lost trade with the EU neighbours who already share our values.

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Take today’s revelation, in the i, of a move to export lambs who haven’t first been stunned to Saudi Arabia as part of a deal worth £25 million over the next five years. The government pitched the deal to companies “poised to take advantage of the increasing opportunities Brexit presents”. But the only UK scheme approved by Riyadh for exports is one that expressly forbids any form of stunning. Gove has previously vowed to make sure Brexit works “for the animals we love and cherish too”. What hypocrisy.

Since the Brexit vote, ministers have also been sucking up to unsavoury global leaders. May rushed to see Donald Trump after he was elected – and has been slow to criticise his racism, sexism and bigotry ever since. She was also the first western leader to visit Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan after his brutal crackdown on democratic opposition following an attempted coup – so desperate was she to back a fighter jet project with BAE Systems and scope out a post-Brexit trade deal. Her trade secretary, Liam Fox, has talked of “shared values” with the Philippines’ leader Rodrigo Duterte, who is responsible for the death of thousands in his war on drugs.

Good-quality trade deals require time and clout. The desperation to prove Brexit is a success means ministers will be tempted to bash out deals which ride roughshod over values.

By contrast, the EU takes its time, focusing on more than just making a quick buck. Its free trade agreements have to include “trade and sustainable development” chapters. This means built-in commitments to labour standards and environmental protections. It can do this because it is the largest trade bloc in the world.

After Brexit, the UK will be desperate to cut deals to make up the Brexit trade shortfall. Expect lots of them to be grubby.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “Desperate Brexit trade deals are likely to be grubby”

  • This point must be repeatedly stressed – the NHS will be a victim of brexit. Disgraced former minister Fox will sell the NHS out to corporate America. I very much doubt that he won’t stoop to anything to get a fta on any terms with America. Leavers, you’ve been conned.