Trade Bill

Written evidence submitted by Greener UK (TB06)

Trade Bill


· Greener UK is a coalition of 13 major environmental organisations, which came together to ensure that environmental protections are maintained and enhanced during the Brexit process, particularly through ambitious domestic legislation. Now that we have left the EU, we are urging the UK and devolved governments to build on our high environmental standards and protections.

· In its manifesto, the government committed that in trade negotiations it "will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards". Amendments to the Agriculture Bill at Commons report stage, which would have prevented the import of lower standard products in trade deals, received support from across the House. The Trade Bill now provides another crucial opportunity to ensure our high standards are maintained in future trade deals.

· Done badly, trade agreements can drive a race to the bottom in environmental standards and protections and contribute to an unacceptable global environmental footprint. Trade policy must instead support the development and implementation of high quality, effective regulation that will make the UK more resilient for the future.

· Democratic processes are a necessary component of a modern trade policy. However, the Trade Bill fails to put in place adequate measures for the involvement of parliament and the public in defining the terms of trade negotiations and the approval of trade deals. The Bill should be amended to correct this oversight and bring the UK’s trade policy up to date for the 21st Century.

· For further details, please see our detailed second reading briefing on the bill.

1. Part 1 – Compatibility with addressing the climate and nature emergencies

1.1. The Trade Bill should make provision for ensuring that trade policy and agreements will be compatible with addressing the climate and nature emergency. In order to ensure that we have a trade policy that works for our environmental ambitions, the Trade Bill should be amended through a new clause to ensure that:

· The UK’s trade negotiations and agreements are underpinned by high environmental standards. The starting point should be that FTAs must include strong, broad and enforceable non-regression clauses that prohibit any regression in standards, not just those linked purely to economic advantages.

· The UK properly preserves its right to regulate. This is essential to ensure the law and policy needed to achieve our environmental goals can be developed and implemented. As well as positive statements about the right to regulate, UK trade policy must also create safeguards to prevent this being undermined through other measures and mechanisms, such as regulatory co-operation chapters.

· No trade agreement will impact on the UK’s ability to ratify and properly implement international treaties e.g. the Paris Agreement, and will look to strengthen compliance and cooperation with international obligations by trading partners. Trade agreements will prioritise goods and services that are low carbon and environmentally sustainable.

2. Part 2 – Parliamentary scrutiny

2.1. The Trade Bill should be amended to guarantee parliamentary oversight and scrutiny of the negotiation and ratification of trade deals.

· Parliament, the public, and the devolved administrations and legislatures must be given meaningful roles in defining the terms of trade negotiations and subsequent scrutiny of trade deals. Information should be accessible and parliament must scrutinise and vote on mandates and negotiations as they progress, up to and including on ratification

3. Part 3 - Import standards

3.1. The UK should set out a progressive approach to trade policy that is based on high quality and sustainable production methods.

· The Trade Bill should include import bans and restrictions on goods produced in harmful, damaging, polluting or unacceptable ways, especially where such practices are currently illegal here in the UK.

· Along with a clear commitment to ban imports that do not meet basic UK standards, the Trade Bill should set out the path for this policy by including commitments to an import standards policy that will protect domestic producers and our global environment.

· There will also be a need for continual monitoring and review to ensure standards are being upheld and to make sure policy (including bans and other restrictions) is in line with emerging technologies and practices and changing understanding of the scale of the climate and nature emergencies.

4. Part 4 – Sustainability impact assessments

4.1. Sustainability impact assessments should play an important role and the Trade Bill should be amended to ensure:

· Sustainability impact assessments are carried out before entering trade negotiations or negotiations to replicate existing trade agreements.

· The results of sustainability impact assessments conducted during the life of an agreement meaningfully influence its application and if the impact assessments show negative effects and adequate mitigation measures are not implemented, FTAs (or certain chapters or provisions of them) must be subject to suspension or termination.

· Sustainability impact assessments cover both macro-economic impacts but also qualitative data regarding climate and environmental impacts for both the UK and third countries.

June 2020


Prepared 17th June 2020