How will Brexit Trade Agreements Affect UK Workers?

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Trade Campaigner Linda Kaucher talks about post-Brexit trade deals following the 2017 general election, trade liberalisation, food standards, and a possible UK-US trade deal and what these mean for workers (part 2)

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Story Transcript

LINDA KAUCHER: Hi, I’m Linda Kaucher. I’ve been looking at international trade agreements for quite a few years working to inform the public about what’s dangerous in them and working to oppose them.

Trade agreements are not being mentioned by the parties in the election, really, and certainly not the dangers of trade agreements. There’s two important aspects that receive very little attention in this country and not well-defined, and that’s the UK’s own unilateral liberalization and also labor issues are not mentioned very much.

The UK has been completely liberalized since Thatcher’s time and that means that we have been completely open. All investment opportunities here have been completely open to transnational investors whether it’s private sector like firms being sold off. It’s always open to transnational investors and the result of that is that we don’t own anything anymore in this country because it’s been in that direction for a long time, and it also applies when there are privatizations in the public sector. Those investment opportunities are also open to transnational investors so this complete liberalization is to suit the needs of the city of London because the transnational financial service is there. We have to be the global model for liberalization because that’s what they want globally. That’s what drives UK policy.

There’s little attention paid to workers and to labor as an aspect of the economy, really. If you noticed, there’s less and less reporting on workers as the shift in reporting has gone towards business perspectives and business needs. Tom [Milsom’s 00:02:08] book on the BBC really points this out how there are no industrial reporters anymore. It’s all business focused. But, work is really central to our lives. It’s central to how we spend our time much of our lives in time. It’s also essential to our survival and labor is also the fundamental part of the economy. The left pays insufficient attention to this, but the right as in big business certainly knows the importance of driving down labor standards. Obviously, this happens through to two main mechanisms is to shift work overseas to cheaper labor areas or to be bring in or move across borders workers who will work more cheaply and that’s inherently undermines labor standards as well. Both of these are reinforced in trade agreements and facilitated in international trade agreements.

What we’re looking at going forward with UK trade agreements, the UK will be in the trade agreements that the EU is hurriedly pushing forward at this stage for quite a few years. We’re tied into those for quite a few years. Then we’re looking at the Brexit deals that are being suggested or pursued. Obviously, a main priority for the UK government is a trade agreement with the US. The person who has been and probably will continue to be in charge as secretary of state for international trade is Liam Fox who’s very closely aligned with US big business. In fact, has been an organization that has been a bridge for a major US lobbying organization so very tied to the US corporations, and obviously the UK is very keen to push ahead with a deal with the US.

We can look at went on with the trade and investment partnership with the EU that has been negotiated for a few years but it’s at a standstill now, and we can see there that the biggest force was US agribusiness pushing to get their lower standard food into the EU, and you can see that the UK is, as always, quite a GM friendly government and that the UK can be the opening for that, for US agribusiness pushing into the UK and as a doorway to the rest of Europe.

We need to be really watchful about what’s being proposed for trade agreements and not accept this magic word that trade agreements are the one thing we need. It’s the content of trade agreements that really matters and we need to know that from the earlier stages and we need the assessment of who’s going to benefit and who’s going to lose from such trade agreements.

A good source of information about trade agreements generally but in the EU context is Corporate Europe Observatory, CEO. They’ve looked at a lot of aspects of the agreements that have been negotiated at the EU level. What we need in the UK is the same strong network for information sharing that has been in place across the EU to fight with the EU trade agreements. Now, we need that network here sharing on with the focus on trade agreements.