Global Britain

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:35 pm on 30th January 2020.

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Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Labour, Putney 2:35 pm, 30th January 2020

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. I have spoken to women in Bangladesh about ways in which trading policies can be fair. Even those with very small incomes can engage in the global trading system. If we make that our aim and goal, it can be done right from the start.

My second point is that the Department for International Development should be kept as an independent Department. This is a very live issue at the moment. It should not be merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Working together, the FCO and DFID give us significant clout globally, which we are in danger of diluting if we merge the two Departments. DFID is considered one of the most effective aid agencies in the world, saving lives through health, immunisation, water, sanitation, education and climate programmes, and by empowering communities to do that. This must be led by a Secretary of State with permanent Cabinet representation and a place on the National Security Council.

We should also increase our environmental commitments to achieve a net zero future. Our now independent membership of the World Trade Organisation and our hosting of COP26 later this year provide a massive opportunity—I want to be as optimistic as I can about leaving the EU—to take global leadership of environmental trade policy and to outdo the EU in the implementation of environmental standards. However, that has to begin with getting our own ship in order. We need to take a more joined-up departmental approach to trade and climate change, and end the culture of siloism. We need to undertake environmental, gender and climate impact assessments before entering trade negotiations, which is why we as a House need to know what is going on in those negotiations. All too often, free trade can have a significant, detrimental impact on women in particular, which is why I mentioned gender impact assessments. We should ensure that all stipulations in future trade agreements are designed to meet our own climate and environmental targets, and we should seek legally binding climate commitments in trade deals, rather than too often ineffective environmental chapters.

Trade deals should also be subject to increased scrutiny, as the shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, my hon. Friend Barry Gardiner, has said. The Government seem to be making every effort to avoid proper debate on and scrutiny of our trade deals, and they are completely opaque in their objectives. They are hiding. The entire process needs to be reformed and subject to proper oversight, if our trade policy is going to reflect the sort of global Britain that we all want.

Tomorrow we leave the European Union and its regulatory framework. With the Chancellor already having confirmed that there will be no alignment with EU regulations, global Britain is now being defined in our trade and development policies. Are we prepared to enter into trade deals with regimes such as that of President Bolsonaro, who has pursued an aggressive policy on environmental deregulation, for which the Amazon has paid the price? Are we going to continue selling arms to human rights abusers and states violating international humanitarian law? Are we going to continue to let UK-based companies divert rivers and destroy indigenous communities in their own overseas operations? This cannot be the kind of global Britain we want to see.

To conclude, Brexit, tackling global poverty, achieving the sustainable development goals and taking urgent action on the climate crisis all bring huge challenges, but we must meet them with a very British commitment to fairness, by protecting rights and promoting peace, justice, equality, sustainability and prosperity in all that we do on the global stage.