Campaigners have claimed in an open letter to local MPs that issues could arise if the UK does a trade deal with the USA following Brexit.
The open letter, sent to all Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire MPs, was signed by five local groups.
It called on MPs to oppose the proposed trade deal because of the groups’ concerns about its impact on the NHS, food standards and action on climate change, amongst other issues.
The letter said that the trade deal currently being negotiated threatens to:
- Weaken the NHS and other public services, drive up medicine prices and allow the irreversible privatisation of parts of the NHS
- Erode food, animal welfare and environmental standards in line with those that are currently acceptable in the US (for example chlorinated chicken, increased use of antibiotics and chemicals in farming, and unlabelled GM food). This would threaten the livelihoods of British farmers who follow higher standards
- Block government action to tackle the climate crisis and encourage the use of dirty fossil fuels
- Give increased power to ‘‘corporate courts’ that allow foreign corporations to sue governments outside of the national legal system to challenge things like environmental protection or public health policy thus eroding democracy
- Allow chemicals currently banned in the UK to be used in cosmetics or sprayed on crops
- Increase the power of Silicon Valley online giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon, and make it even harder to get them to pay fair taxes
- Water down privacy protection – (including online and NHS data), thus increasing the amount of personal data being sold to corporations for profit
In addition, the letter claims that MPs are excluded from the terms and details of these trade talks, which in the UK are negotiated in secret. The groups said that US politicians would get a say on ratifying any deal.
Maryla Hart started Global Justice Now Herts and Beds during summer 2020 by organising a virtual public meeting. Maryla said:
“The issues raised in the letter are of great concern to local people. The pandemic has highlighted the need to protect our NHS and public services on which we are so reliant.
“Many of us have become more in touch with our natural environment, and the need to protect it in this time of climate and ecological crisis. We also understand the need to support our farmers and the rural economy and maintain our high UK food standards.
“Low animal welfare standards are dangerous as well as inhumane – we have seen the devastation this can lead to with disease spread from animals to people. We live in an interconnected world, which is why this is a local as well as a national and global issue.
“People may ask whether the issues raised in the letter are still relevant given the change of US President, and the answer is yes . The Obama administration pursued a similar deal between the US and the EU (called TTIP), and the threats it posed were almost identical to those we are highlighting now. The TTIP was only defeated due to opposition throughout the EU, including in the UK.”
In addition to Global Justice Now Herts and Beds, North Herts and Stevenage Green Party, North Herts Friends of the Earth, St Albans Friends of the Earth and Letchworth and District Organic Gardeners (the local group of Garden Organic) have added their name to the letter.
Peter Foord, from North Herts Friends of the Earth and Global Justice Herts and Beds, said:
“We are calling on all MPs to oppose this deal, currently being negotiated without proper scrutiny, as it threatens to undermine food and farming standards and efforts to tackle the climate emergency. We also urge members of the public to contact their own MP with their concerns.”
In a statement sent to the Chronicle, Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire said:
“Free trade is an engine of collective prosperity. The incoming Biden administration in the US shares our government’s concerns about the environment, corporate tax avoidance and improving food standards. This is the ideal moment for us to negotiate a deal across the Atlantic that benefits our people and the planet.”
Copy of the open letter
Sir Charles Walker MP, Broxbourn
Sir Michael Penning MP, Hemel Hempstead
Julie Marson MP, Hertford and Stortford
Oliver Dowden MP, Hertsmere
Bim Afolami MP, Hitchin and Harpenden
Sir Oliver Heald MP, NE Hertfordshire
Gagan Mohindra MP, SW Hertfordshire
Daisy Cooper MP, St Albans
Stephen McPartland MP, Stevenage
Dean Russell MP, Watford
Grant Shapps MP, Welwyn Hatfield
Mohammad Yasin MP, Bedford
Nadine Dorries MP, Mid Bedfordshire
Richard Fuller MP, North East Bedfordshire
Andrew Selous MP, South West Bedfordshire
Sarah Owen MP, Luton North
Rachel Hopkins MP, Luton South
Dear MPs for Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire
Stop the UK-US Trade Deal – Open Letter to Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire MPs
We are extremely concerned that the UK trade deal with the US is being negotiated in secret with no parliamentary oversight. There is a very high risk that this deal will undermine many things which we value and will impact us nationally and of course locally in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
The Trade Deal with the US is not necessary, and offers only minimal economic benefits to the UK. We already trade with the USA and would continue to do so after Brexit, even without a trade deal. Once it is in place, future governments will be effectively “locked into” the deal, even if they wanted to change it.
The trade deal currently being negotiated threatens to:
- weaken the NHS and other public services and drive up medicine prices (currently these are up to 4 times higher in the USA than here). It could lead to irreversible privatisation of profitable sections of the NHS
- erode food, animal welfare and environmental standards in line with those that are currently acceptable in the United States. (For example chlorinated chicken, increased use of antibiotics and chemicals in farming, and unlabelled GM food). This would threaten the livelihoods of British farmers who follow higher standards
- block government action to tackle the climate crisis and encourage the use of dirty fossil fuels
- give increased power to ‘‘Corporate courts’ that allow foreign corporations to sue governments outside of the national legal system to challenge things like environmental protection or public health policy thus eroding democracy
- allow chemicals currently banned in the UK to be used in cosmetics or sprayed on crops
- increase the power of Silicon Valley online giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon, and make it even harder to get them to pay fair taxes
- water down privacy protection – (including online and NHS data). Thus increasing the amount of personal data being sold to corporations for profit
You, our MPs, are excluded from the terms and details of these trade talks, which in the UK are negotiated in secret, whereas US politicians get a say. Far from ‘taking back control’ the UK currently risks having the terms of the deal dictated to it by the far more powerful USA.
For the reasons summarised above, we believe these dangerous and undemocratic trade talks should be stopped. We call on you, our MPs, to use your collective power and influence to stop this Trade Deal and instead promote trade that works for people and the planet.
Global Justice – Herts and Beds, Local group of Global Justice Now
North Herts and Stevenage Green Party
North Herts Friends of the Earth https://friendsoftheearth.uk/groups/northherts
St Albans Friends of the Earth https://www.stalbansfoe.org/
Letchworth and District Organic Gardeners [Local Group of Garden Organic] https://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/giyletchworth
Also signed by 22 local residents from Herts and Beds.