BREXIT: Bad for Fair Trade, bad for tackling global poverty.
12 October 2016
It's always a positive experience to host our now annual Fair Trade breakfast in the European Parliament. Not only is the event getting bigger - with many MEPs attending - but what is particularly heartening is to see grassroots representatives of Fair Trade movements from across the EU and the globe coming together to share their common experiences.
We were joined by the EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, who once again showed enormous commitment to Fair Trade. In the two years she has been in office, she has done more to support our work than any of her predecessors. Innovations include adding clauses on fair and ethical trade to all new trade agreement, as well as a push to get more Fair Trade projects off the ground in countries where the EU is active as a donor. My colleague Bernd Lange, chair of the Parliament's trade committee, has boosted this work by bringing ambassadors together from countries where Fair Trade is active. Particularly good news this year was the announcement by Commissioner Malmström that an EU Fair Trade Capital Award is to be launched from 2018.
But today's 6th breakfast was tinged with sadness for myself, as well as other British MEPs and Fair Trade activists, because as we know, Britain is heading for the exit door of the EU, meaning that we may not continue to be part of this new EU wide push on Fair Trade. The UK will have to agree new trade agreements with every country in the world - and given the emphasis of the government on free trade, rather than a rules based fairer trade system, I have concerns that future UK trade agreements will have no sustainability chapters and less support for farmers and producers in developing countries. Britain also has one of the most vibrant Fair Trade movements, so we need to work to make sure that after Brexit, we keep our relationships with our European partners.
Going forward, EU Fairtrade advocates today want to encourage all local Fair Trade communities and activists to do what they can to campaign. We need NGOs, activists, MPs, businesses, consumers, local communities to come together to hold the British government to account by demanding a fair future UK trade strategy. Yorkshire is one of the most active Fairtrade regions, so please have a look and share their website to see what can be done and how you can get involved in your local area: http://www.fairtradeyorkshire.org.uk/