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How do UK trade agreements measure up on human rights?

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre | 2 February 2023

How do UK trade agreements measure up on human rights?

We have applied our human rights tests to the UK’s post-Brexit Free Trade Agreements, revealing significant gaps in human rights protections. This presents an opportunity for the UK to set a new trade strategy which promotes human rights.

The UK has the opportunity to play a significant role in shaping a world trading system that promotes and protects human rights as an independent trading nation with its own seat at the World Trade Organisation. Yet the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) negotiated since the UK left the European Union (EU) have fallen worryingly short on human rights, wasting their potential to drive prosperity and rights-based sustainable development.

Our four key human rights tests for UK Free Trade Agreements distinguish responsible trade deals which respect and enhance human rights from those which could lead to harm for workers and communities. Applied to post-Brexit FTAs, this analysis demonstrates these agreements have thus far missed the mark. An important opportunity exists to ensure the UK’s future deals do not replicate this pattern and instead proactively centre human rights in trade policy.

Our four tests call for UK trade agreements to:

  • contain enforceable human rights conditions
  • be subject to an independent human rights and environmental impact assessment
  • contain enforceable human rights obligations on businesses and investors
  • exclude the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism

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 source: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre