NEU joins civil society groups in demanding social and environmental protection in EU-UK trade deal

Following the publication of the UK’s negotiation objectives this week, the NEU has joined with other UK trade unions, environmental organisations and health and human rights groups to call for an EU-UK trade deal based on rights, justice and sustainability

The organisations outline a number of immediate priorities for the negotiations. These include fixing a floor for social and environmental regulations, to ensure that future changes to UK legislation would improve rather than lower standards. Civil society organisations are concerned that protections such as workers’ rights, air quality and food standards could be eroded after Brexit. The groups, which represent six million people in the UK, are pressing for a new approach to UK trade policy which protects public services, secures decent jobs and rights at work, protects human rights, quality food and animal welfare, and is consistent with our responsibility to fight the climate emergency.

NEU joint general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said: “As the largest education union in Europe, the NEU will continue to work closely with our European counterparts in support of workers’ rights and environmental protections. Crucially we will also defend education as a public service, not as a commodity that can be traded by corporate interests that have no place in our education system. Education and other public services are not ‘tradable’ and must not be covered by trade rules.”

Laura Bannister, senior adviser at the Trade Justice Movement, said: “The UK’s negotiating mandate raises serious concerns, and threatens to reduce protections for workers and our efforts to tackle climate change. The EU-UK treaty should lock in place high standards where they exist, while preserving our government’s policy space to go above and beyond them. The EU’s level playing field provisions offer a good baseline for this. The EU-UK trade deal must be truly innovative, and not replicate provisions from other deals that undermine these goals. This is an opportunity to reinvent trade policy and ensure it truly serves the public interest.”

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Kierra Box, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “If we’re to take the UK government’s promise of ‘the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth’ seriously, all future trade deals – including with our most important trading partners in the EU – must lock in the highest possible environmental standards.

“These negotiations should start aim to secure a relationship that supports a zero-carbon future, bolsters current environmental and animal welfare protections, and helps both sides to meet the challenge of the climate and nature emergency we face.

“Refusing to nail down ambitious environmental commitments is a worrying start, which casts the government’s promises in serious doubt. The UK’s negotiating team must urgently change tack if we’re to have any hope of meeting government commitments to lead the world when it comes to protecting our environment.”

The joint statement, published by the Trade Justice Movement, is available here.

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