Britain must not sacrifice our environment and NHS for a Trump trade deal, say politicians, union leaders and campaigners

A progressive coalition of cross-party politicians, campaigners and union leaders have come together today to warn the Government not to sacrifice our NHS and environmental regulations on the altar of a free trade deal with Donald Trump’s US administration.

The intervention was inspired by Trump’s interview with Michael Gove in today’s Times, in which he said that he would seek to do a free trade deal with Britain “very quickly.” The Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green politicians, as well as the leaders of UNISON, Friends of the Earth and Open Britain, say such a quick deal would run the risk of the UK Government acceding to American demands to open up our NHS to privatisation, and reduce the quality of our environmental standards.

Such a trade deal would not be worth having, they say.

Commenting, Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, MP said:

“A rushed trade deal with Trump may give Ministers cover for their dangerous Brexit strategy but it will not hide the risk that this could be a Trojan horse for NHS privatisation. The Government must give urgent guarantees that this won't be part of any future UK-US trade deal. Britain has to succeed outside of the EU, but we won't do that by slashing spending and selling off our public services to Donald Trump.”

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said:

“Talk of a quick-fix trade deal with the US is just bluster. The UK Government isn't free to start negotiations until 2019 and even then it would take years of negotiation. It would be as bad for the NHS and the environment as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) threatened to be.”

Co-Executive Director, Open Britain, Joe Carberry, said:

“A quick deal will almost certainly mean the smaller partner acceding to the terms of the larger partner, the US, which in our case could threaten our NHS and high environmental standards. Coming on the back of the Government now embracing a low spending, deregulatory agenda, working people will be very concerned about what this means for their futures.”

Co-Leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas MP, said:

“Trump’s interview in the Times highlights the serious risks of Britain trying to jettison itself in the Atlantic, with the hope of drifting closer to the USA. By staying close to Europe we can guard the environmental regulations that Trump so recklessly criticises, and ensure that we have a stable trading relationship with our near neighbours – rather than relying on striking a deal with a President of the USA who cannot be trusted to maintain a policy position for more than a few days. While the EU has shown climate leadership, Donald Trump has appointed at least nine climate-sceptics to his cabinet. If the British Government is serious about climate change, we need to keep working closely with European countries who are leading the world in facing up to this challenge.”

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change, Baroness Featherstone, said:

“The Government’s lack of a Brexit plan must not result in rushed trade deals which jeopardise our environmental standards and push us further away from solutions to tackling climate change. From carbon emissions to food safety, the EU has played a positive role in protecting our environment and these standards must be maintained or strengthened in future deals. There must be no caving in to Trump’s misplaced climate-scepticism.”

Chair of the Environmental Audit Select Committee, Labour MP, Mary Creagh, said:

“A quick trade deal with Donald Trump runs real risks. Our food safety and environmental standards could be compromised if we simply open up our domestic markets to US interests without asking questions. The Government is chasing positive Brexit headlines but that must not come at the expense of the UK remaining a world-leader on environmental issues.” 

Campaign Lead, Friends of the Earth, Samuel Lowe, said:

“The US has long pushed for the removal of the EU ban on hormone treated beef and a watering down of our precautionary approach to regulating health and the environment. There is a real risk that - in its rush to sign a headline-grabbing UK-Trump deal as quickly as possible - the Government will be forced into concessions it would never normally make. Trump knows this; that's why he's interested. A trade agreement is not a good thing solely by virtue of its own existence. Substance matters. Context matters. Politicians forget that at their peril.”