Organic and food groups join legal challenge to ‘closed doors’ post-Brexit trade deals 

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Organic and food campaigners have joined a coalition of green groups and trade justice advocates in a legal challenge to the “behind closed doors” post-Brexit trade deals they say pose substantial threats to the environment. 

The latest legal challenge comes the day before campaigners say the UK government will break its own pledge and push the UK-Australia deal through Parliament “with no debate”. The legal action challenges the Government’s failure to give the public a say on post-Brexit trade deals which, it will be argued, are in breach of international environmental law.

The coalition, including Sustain, WWF, Green Alliance, Compassion in World Farming, Trade Justice Movement, Soil Association and Tenant Farmers’ Association, has said that existing arrangements for public scrutiny of new trade deals are inadequate, putting the UK Government in breach of the Aarhus Convention – an international agreement that sets out an obligation to ensure public consultation on decisions by the government or public sector that will impact on the environment.   

The group has now filed a formal complaint to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee which will consider whether the UK Government is in breach of international law. If so, the committee has the power to make recommendations to ensure the UK public have a say in future negotiations.

The legal challenge comes a day before the UK Government breaks its own pledge and pushes a new trade agreement with Australia through Parliament with no debate.

Katie White, executive director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF, said:  “People don’t want the food on their plates to fuel the climate and nature crises. Yet  behind closed doors the UK Government has cut trade deals with Australia, an environmental laggard, opening our shores to imports without adequate safeguards for climate and nature.

“People don’t want the food on their plates to fuel the climate and nature crises. Yet  behind closed doors the UK Government has cut trade deals with Australia, an environmental laggard, opening our shores to imports without adequate safeguards for climate and nature”

“It’s totally unacceptable that the public and Parliament have been denied a say on these trade agreements when their consequences will be felt for generations to come – full scrutiny is essential if we are to avoid a deal by default. 

Kath Dalmeny, CEO of Sustain added: “The Government has failed to set a trade policy, failed to consult the public and failed to give Parliament enough time to consider the UK-Australia trade deal. Involving parliament and the public in the trade deal scrutiny process should be seen as a strength, not a weakness. Multiple sets of advisers and select committees have told the Government they should set core food, environment and animal welfare standards for imports, which we would urge them to do as quickly as possible.”  

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