bilaterals.org logo
bilaterals.org logo

United Kingdom

Britain’s vote to leave the EU opens up the possibility of dozens of dangerous trade deals being negotiated with far-reaching effects across the world.

The desire to have an independent trade policy was a key motivating factor for leading proponents of leaving the EU. Through this trade policy, right-wing think tanks and politicians hope to move the British economy closer to the US model of deregulation and liberalisation, and away from what they see as the over regulated protectionism of the European Union. What’s more, they hope to trade far more with emerging and developing economies, building on what they see as Britain’s glorious history of global free trade.

These trade deals could have a serious impact on Britain’s public services and food standards, and threaten to make Britain an even more finance-dependent economy, deeply centralised and unequal – ironically the very conditions that gave rise to Brexit. But the impact globally could be even more serious, as the British government threatens to go into bat for big corporations, using intellectual property, e-commerce, investor protection and procurement rules to rip away standards and regulations that developing countries employ to protect their people, their environment and their right to economic development.

Britain’s new system for negotiating and ratifying trade deals is deeply undemocratic, with the public having no right to information, and members of parliament unable to properly scrutinise, nevermind stop, a trade deal. So the struggle for basic accountability and transparency is one that must go hand-in-hand with attempts to stop dangerous trade deals.

Britain is now a deeply polarised country, where nothing is certain. With Britain’s relationship with the EU unresolved, it is difficult to even know which areas of trade Britain will be able to negotiate. The most ardent free traders tend to favour a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, leaving Britain free to pursue the most extreme free market pacts possible. On the other side, the positive opportunity presented by the current moment is that it has reawakened interest in trade and presents an opportunity to inform the public that a modern trade deal extends well beyond tariffs and quotas. Completely new ways of ‘doing trade’ are being discussed and proposed within political parties in a way not known for many years.

Britain has been seeking to roll over 40 trade deals signed between the EU and third countries, including South Korea, Japan, Canada, Carribbean states, Central America, East and Southern African states. New trade deals with Australia, New Zealand and the US have also been identified as priorities.

Contributed by Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now (last update: August 2019)

Photo: Global Justice Now


Beef emerging as sticking point in free trade talks between Canada and Britain
A potential clash over hormone-treated Canadian beef is emerging as a sticking point as free trade talks between Canada and Britain formally begin.
India, UK conclude second round of talks for proposed free trade agreement
The third round of negotiations is due to be hosted by India in April, the ministry said.
UK and Canada begin formal talks for a free-trade agreement
The UK government announced the formal start of negotiations on a new trade deal with Canada, seeking to replace an interim deal put in place following Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Ghana visit ’brings investment deal closer’
Jersey and Ghana are seeking to finalise a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), which "provides additional protections and fair treatment to investors", said Jersey’s government.
US, UK seek to deepen ties in absence of free-trade deal
US and UK officials are looking at new ways to deepen economic cooperation, even as President Biden’s negotiator suggested that a traditional free-trade agreement may not be the best approach.
Rush for UK trade pacts risks having little benefit, lawmakers warn
UK lawmakers have warned that “there is no guarantee” that the new international trade agreements being negotiated by ministers “will deliver actual economic benefits”, in a new report
NZ-UK free trade deal seen as a down payment
Realpolitik dictates that the deal is also an effective down payment by the UK on its goal to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Partnership Agreement (CPTPP).
UK and Singapore sign new innovative digital trade deal
The UK International Trade Secretary joined her counterpart in Singapore to sign groundbreaking digital trade deal and strengthen trade ties.
UK will be told to lift ban on hormone-treated beef to join key trade bloc, leaked memo suggests
Canada asked some probing questions and stated this will be an important issue for Canada in judging the UK’s compliance with CPTPP.
UK-Australia free trade deal a step closer
The free trade agreement will be examined by parliament’s treaties committee before being implemented. Australian Trade Minister hopes that would happen within the next year.

    Links


  • The UK’s trade agreements
    UK government trade portal where trade agreements that the UK is negotiating and that the UK has already signed can be found, including texts of agreements.