bilaterals.org logo
bilaterals.org logo
   

Government set to ram through Australia trade deal defying public cries for scrutiny

Global Justice Now | 18 July 2022

Government set to ram through Australia trade deal defying public cries for scrutiny

  • New polling reveals only one-fifth (21%) of UK public are satisfied with the current parliamentary process of scrutiny for the UK-Australia trade deal
  • Trade and green groups condemn the government’s ‘shameless’ move to force through deal without debate or vote and call for extension of scrutiny period
  • 83% of UK adults think it is important the public are well informed about the potential impacts of a trade deal before it comes into force
  • New polling released this week shows only one-fifth (21%) of the UK public are satisfied with the current parliamentary process of scrutiny for the UK-Australia trade deal.

The polling comes as the parliamentary process to examine the Australia trade deal is set to finish without debate or vote after the government failed to schedule any time for this. Ministers will then ratify the deal in the autumn when the trade bill passes. MPs have been engaged in a last-minute attempt to secure a debate through requests for an emergency debate, however, just this afternoon these attempts have come to nothing after the Speaker rejected the requests.

The new polling (1) commissioned by Trade Justice Movement and Global Justice Now and conducted by Yonder Consulting reveals:

  • 4 in 5 (83%) UK adults think it is important the public are well informed about the potential impacts of a trade deal before it comes into force
  • 4 in 5 (79%) UK adults agree it should be possible for Parliament to amend parts of trade agreements if it thinks there could be negative impacts on the UK
  • 4 in 5 (78%) UK adults agree trade deals should be debated by Parliament to discuss the positive and negative impacts before they come into force
  • 7 in 10 (70%) UK consumers think Parliament should be guaranteed a vote on whether or not it supports a trade deal
  • Only one fifth (21%) of UK adults are satisfied with the current parliamentary process of scrutiny for the UK-Australia trade deal. 3 in 5 (61%) are dissatisfied.(2)

Just a fortnight ago, it was revealed that evidence of the deal’s full impact on UK food and farming had been withheld by the Government and that losses to the sectors would be even worse than previously predicted. Farming unions are worried about potential losses running into the hundreds of millions of pounds and thousands of jobs.

There are also concerns that the deal could accelerate deforestation to make way for agricultural land for cattle in Australia, increase levels of banned pesticides in food sold in the UK, increase antibiotic resistance and undermine the UK’s animal welfare standards. Peers have also called for the deal to be revisited so the climate provisions could be strengthened after the change of government in Australia.

Jean Blaylock, Trade campaigner at Global Justice Now said:

“It’s outrageous that the government has not even given MPs a debate, let alone a vote on the Australia trade deal. To the vast majority of the public, it’s a no-brainer that parliament should be able to debate and vote on trade deals, and crucially, require changes if it seems like that deal is going to cause damage to people and the planet.

Last year the government said there was no need to put anything in legislation because they ‘could not envisage’ a new trade deal being passed without a debate and we should trust them. Now they’re trying to ram this through under the radar. They cannot be allowed to get away with this, and it’s clear now that the public feels the same.”

Ruth Bergan, Director of the Trade Justice Movement said:

“The latest request from the Commons International Trade Committee asking for parliament to hold a public debate on the trade deal has just been refused. The government has been absolutely shameless in ignoring calls from parliament for more scrutiny of this deal and has effectively run down the clock till we’re out of time. This latest polling shows that the public is demanding their representatives have time to properly scrutinise legislation that has such a huge impact on them and their livelihoods. For the government to deny MPs the chance to do this in favour of ramming this deal through under the radar is frankly outrageous.”

For further info, please contact:

Global Justice Now: Frances Leach, Media Manager, [email protected] 07761 386244

Trade Justice Movement: Catherine Callens, Senior Communications Adviser, [email protected]

Notes

  1. Yonder Consulting, on behalf of Global Justice Now and the Trade Justice Movement, conducted an online poll of 2,117 UK adults between the 13th and 14th July 2022. Results were weighted to be nationally representative of age, gender and region.
  2. This was described as: The current UK process gives MPs 21 days at the end of trade deal negotiations in which to debate the deal, if the Government decides to give them time for a debate. Under this system, the Government doesn’t have to give MPs a vote on the deal if it chooses not to. The UK has been negotiating a trade deal with Australia for over two years. MPs have not yet voted on or debated any part of those negotiations.The Government has been unclear about whether or not MPs will have a chance to vote on or debate the UK Australia trade deal.

 source: Global Justice Now