UK FTA faces UK popular opposition and legal challenge over secrecy and lack of consultation

July 20, 2022: New polling commissioned by UK groups Trade Justice Movement and Global Justice Now has found that 78 per cent of Britons want MPs to debate the pros and cons of new trade deals before they come into force.

The House of Commons trade committee has requested the Trade Minister for a full debate before ratification, and criticised its inability to scrutinise the deal properly. This followed an independent report from the Trade and Agriculture Commission  confirming that the trade deal will affect employment in the farm and food sectors and could lower environmental, food safety, and animal welfare standards.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that Liz Truss – the then-trade secretary from 2019 to 2021 and now Tory leadership contender – received detailed warnings about the harsh impact on the farming and food sectors.

However, the forecasts of losses – from both the Australia and New Zealand agreements – were kept secret when talks were launched in 2020.

The UK Government, which is in turmoil over the replacement of PM Boris Johnson, did not agree to a Ministerial statement and a full debate, but the Labour opposition asked one urgent question, which enabled short critical statements about the lack of democratic process  from opposition and some rural government MPs.  

The Tenant Farmers' Association, Compassion in World Farming, the Trade Justice Movement, WWF and others have filed a formal complaint to the Aarhus Convention, an international environmental agreement that requires public consultation on decisions by governments or public sector bodies that could impact on the environment.