Below is Fleur’s speech during the Trade Bill remaining stages, House of Commons, 20th July 2020.
This Trade Bill is fatally flawed. It could have been a bold statement about our future trade deals in which we used our independence from the EU, whatever we feel about it, to build in high environmental and food standards, workers and consumer rights, and commitments to achieving sustainable development goals and human rights and to modernise our trade rules in conjunction with constructive, modern, democratic scrutiny. Instead, this Bill is stripped of any of those. I urge Members to vote for new clause 4, which will enable the people’s elected representatives here in this House and in the devolved Administrations to say what is important for the British people.
High standards should be written into trade agreements from the start to the finish of negotiations and ensure that, for example, secret deals do not end up with selling off the NHS to the highest bidder. Chlorinated chicken could be just the start. These are not the words of doomsayers or baseless concerns; more than 400 NHS and senior public health professionals have signed an open letter, demanding legal guarantees in post-Brexit trade legislation to provide specific protections for the health service in any future trade negotiations, such as those with the US. US trade deals are already under way in secret, but even in the US both Houses of Congress get a guaranteed vote on trade agreements, and America’s process for public consultation prior to negotiation is impressively far-reaching in contrast with this Bill. The British public are being sold out by this Bill. What are the Government afraid of? What are the Government planning to do? What desperate deals will be struck to get a deal done, but on worse terms?
In my own constituency, 39% of jobs are in sectors identified as being severely impacted by a no-deal Brexit, or a bad deal with the EU. I am extremely angry, as are my constituents that, as an MP, I will have very little say over preventing this. Food standards are also a very huge concern to my constituents who are deeply worried that decades of progress in animal welfare, hygiene, husbandry and environmental management are going to be stripped away. Farmers and consumers will be worse off.
I am very disappointed that the Bill went through several days of scrutiny in the Committee, which I was a member of, without any changes whatsoever, and today we have just a few minutes of parliamentary debate starting in the late afternoon on only one day before the Bill goes to the next stage. In Committee, we heard evidence about how much stronger our trade negotiators could be if they had the backing of parliamentary red lines written into our legislation, but we were told over and over again by the Minister that proposals for parliamentary scrutiny of food standards, environmental standards and workers’ rights were not necessary.
If the planned negotiations will include all those rights and standards, that should be guaranteed by being written into parliamentary legislation. If the Government are planning to agree a bargained down, watered down race to the bottom, I can see why they would reject these amendments. That is why we should all be very worried about our future and about this Trade Bill.