Campaigners write to MPs opposing trade deal which is of 'great concern to local people'

Global Justice Herts and Beds' Maryla Hart (left) and Sue Lines (right) holding banners

Global Justice Herts and Beds' Maryla Hart (left) and Sue Lines (right) raising awareness of the trade deal issues in Hitchin in September 2020. - Credit: Maryla Hart

Campaigners from across Herts have written to the county's MPs in a bid to oppose the current UK-US trade deal.

The campaigners, which include Global Justice Herts and Beds along with North Herts and St Albans' branches of Friends of the Earth, have collectively written to 17 MPs across Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire expressing their concern that the UK trade deal with the US is being negotiated in secret with no parliamentary oversight.

Global Justice Herts and Beds' David Ashton (left) and North Herts Friends of the Earth's Peter Foord (right). 

Global Justice Herts and Beds' David Ashton (left) and North Herts Friends of the Earth's Peter Foord (right) raising awareness of the trade deal issues in Hitchin in September 2020. - Credit: Maryla Hart

The trade deal, which is part of the UK's post-Brexit negotiations, is a cause of concern for many, including the five groups and 22 residents that compiled the letter to MPs in hope that they would openly oppose the proposed trade deal due to concerns about its impact on the NHS, food standards and action on climate change, among other issues.

The letter outlines concerns on how the trade deal will affect:

  • The NHS and other public services, as well as medicine prices and privatisation of parts of the NHS
  • food, animal welfare and environmental standards and the livelihoods of British farmers 
  • government action to tackle the climate crisis
  • the power given to ‘corporate courts’ 
  • the use of chemicals currently banned in the UK to be used in cosmetics or sprayed on crops
  • the power of Silicon Valley online giants, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon, and their willingness to pay fair taxes
  • privacy protection, including online and NHS data 

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The letter also points out that the UK's MPs are currently excluded from the terms and details of these trade talks, whereas US politicians would get a say on ratifying any deal.

Back in September, the group organised socially distanced stalls to raise awareness and gather signatures from the public.

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Maryla Hart from Letchworth Garden City started the Global Justice Herts and Beds group last summer 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."

Peter Foord from North Herts Friends of the Earth 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."

The Comet, Herts Advertiser, Welwyn Hatfield Times and Royston Crow collectively approached a number of MPs from our area who were named recipients of the letter, including Bim Afolami, 

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald said in response to the letter: "While some people are concerned about the issues raised, the fears do not make sense. For example, the government puts a lot of effort into reaching reasonable prices for medicines for the NHS and would have no incentive to do otherwise.

Sir Oliver Heald MP. Picture: Harry Hubbard

Sir Oliver Heald MP. Picture: Harry Hubbard - Credit: Archant

"The government is the first to have put forward net zero by 2050 into law and leads the international drive to reduce carbon emissions, so would not agree to increase emissions. So, trade negotiations can have good economic effects, but must respect UK interests, are subject to parliamentary scrutiny and there is also a Parliamentary veto."

Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, said: "I fully expect that there will be strong consensus with the Biden administration on our shared priorities, including universal access to healthcare and ambition action to combat climate change.

Bim Afolami has asked the Transport Secretary about The Rapid Charging Fund and future of Electric Vehicles in Hitchin. Pictu...

Bim Afolami MP - Credit: Archant

"The Government has held a hard line on the NHS and agricultural standards when negotiating a trade deal with the outgoing administration. There is now every opportunity to build a world-class clean, green trade deal that protects high standards and while promoting sustainable economic growth."

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans and deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: "The public have grave concerns that a UK-US trade deal could damage our NHS and undermine food standards, consumer protections, and employment rights. It's vital that parliament can play its full part in scrutinising, debating and voting on any such deal, but alarmingly, it looks like the Conservative government will once again use centuries old powers to try and subvert that democratic process. 

Daisy Cooper MP said she was 'shocked' by the issues Met Medical was experiencing.

Daisy Cooper MP - Credit: HM Government

“As a Liberal Democrat I find it outrageous that British MPs now have less power to influence and scrutinise trade deals than British MEPs did when we were part of the EU. I will continue to fight to protect our NHS and food standards and for the democratic oversight to hold this government's feet to the fire."

This story will be updated as further responses from MPs are received.

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