Brexit - time to make trade fair

As Brexit moves ahead, we’re in an unprecedented situation. The next few years will see our trade rules rewritten and new trade deals negotiated. It’s likely to mean big changes for us. But for millions of farmers and workers from the world’s poorest countries who rely on trading with us, it could be make or break.

We’re campaigning with the Trade Justice Movement and other organisations including Traidcraft Exchange, Global Citizen, Global Justice Now, SumofUS and War on Want for our post-Brexit trade deals to deliver a fair deal for millions of vulnerable farmers and workers in developing countries.

You can find our most recent reports and briefings about Brexit here. And you can find our most recent blogs here. Below you can read all our latest news.

What does a no-deal Brexit mean for producers in developing countries? (September 2018)

We’ve published a new briefing paper - Delivering ‘Fairtrade Brexit’? - that explores the impact leaving the European Union without a deal could have the farmers who grow our bananas, coffee, tea, sugar, flowers and wine. Read it here.

Trade Democracy petition handed-in to the House of Lords (September 2018)

On Monday 3 September 2018 we went down to parliament with our friends from Global Justice Now, SumofUs and War on Want to hand in our petition to the House of Lords.

Together we handed in 67,027 signatures asking Peers to amend the Trade Bill to include a democratic and transparent process for negotiating our future trade deals.

We’ll be keeping a close watch when the Lords discuss the Bill on 11 September. The hope is that Peers will amend the Bill as it progresses through the House of Lords, and that the government will accept our arguments for trade democracy.

Don’t forget to sign up to receive our email newsletter to get the latest news about the campaign and find out about the next action.

The Trade and Customs Bills finally get their third reading in parliament (July 2018)

After nearly 6 months, the Trade and Customs Bills finally returned to parliament in July. Almost 3,000 Fairtrade supporters emailed their MP just before the third reading, asking them to vote to amend the Trade Bill to include a democratic and transparent process for negotiating our future trade deals.

It was close, but sadly the trade democracy amendment lost by 30 votes.

We haven’t yet secured everything we want to see, but we have pushed this critical issue high enough up the political agenda to see the government introduce some new measures.

Trade Minister Liam Fox has promised that proposals for all new trade deals will get 14 weeks of public consultation and that the government will publish impact assessments to accompany negotiations. We hope this means that new deals with countries like the United States and Australia will have to be looked at from the perspective of developing countries, but we’re waiting to see the detail. Crucially, none of this has been embedded in law and MPs, unlike existing MEPs, are still unable to vote on any new trade deals – so the campaign is not over yet.

Our Brexit trade policy expert Helen Dennis has been carefully following all the debates and announcements – head on over to her blog where she’s summarised the story so far.

4000 Fairtrade supporters write to their MP ahead of the second reading of the Trade & Customs Bills (January 2018)

A whopping 98% of MPs received an email from a Fairtrade supporter in January, asking them to speak up in parliament for the Trade & Customs Bills to include:

1. A duty-free, quota-free market access scheme for other poor countries.

2. Compulsory impact assessments, which consider the impact of all trade deals on poorer countries.

3. Powers for Parliament to properly scrutinise and ratify trade agreements.

And Fairtrade got a mention in both debates! Find out what happened in this blog from our Policy Manager, Helen Dennis

265,000 tell Trade Minister Liam Fox - don't do trade deals in the dark (October 2017)

On 21 November 2017 we handed in 19,692 signatures to the Trade Minister, Liam Fox, asking him to ensure the public, producers and parliament all have a say in our future trade deals.

We went down to the Department for International Trade with our friends from 38 degrees, Global Justice Now, SumofUs, War on Want and Traidcraft Exchange who’ve also been campaigning hard on this issue.

Together we handed in over 265,000 signatures demanding we have a democratic and transparent process for negotiating our future trade deals.

Petition handed in to Trade Minister Liam Fox asking for trade democracy (November 2017)

On 21 November 2017 we handed in 19,000 signatures to the Trade Minister, Liam Fox, asking him to ensure the public, producers and parliament all have a say in our future trade deals.

We went down to the Department for International Trade with 38 degrees, Global Justice Now, SumofUs, War on Want and Traidcraft Exchange who've also been campaigning hard on this issue. 

Together we handed in over 265,000 signatures demanding we have a democratic and transparent process for negotiating our future trade deals.

Want to know a bit more about the issue? Take a look at this briefing paper from our friends at the Trade Justice Movement. Or this one from Global Justice Now.

Fairtrade Foundation response to government's trade white paper (October 2017)

On 9 October 2017 the government published their Trade white paper, which aims to lay the groundwork and pave the way for legislation that will ensure the UK can operate as a trading nation once we leave the EU. You can read a response to this from Tim Aldred, Head of Policy at the Fairtrade Foundation, here.

Government responds to petition to Trade Minister Liam Fox and pledges to help improve access to UK markets for the world's poorest countries when we leave the EU (June 2017)

On 24 June 2017 the government announced via a press release that they will commit to protecting our current trading relationships with the world’s poorest countries when we leave the EU, and ‘explore options to expand on relationships’ with other developing countries.

This means that millions of farmers and workers in 48 countries can breathe a sigh of relief. They have reassurance that they will continue to benefit from tax and quota-free exports post-Brexit, and will not face a £1 billion import tax bill.

This huge commitment follows Fairtrade supporters sending over 5,000 emails to their MPs, along with 38,000 Fairtrade, Traidcraft and Global Citizen supporters asking Liam Fox to act fast on this issue.

The campaigns not over yet, though. There are many developing countries not included in the announcement, such as Ghana and Kenya, who need to know if they too can look forward to improved terms of trade with the UK. And there is still the chance that new trade deals with richer countries such as China, Australia and the US could damage market access for poorer ones.

We’ll be watching developments very closely and will let you know when we need to act next. 

Petition handed in to the Department for International Trade (April 2017)

Because a snap General Election was called, we decided to hand in our petition to the Trade Minister to the Department for International Trade earlier than planned on 28 April 2017.  It’s now on the Trade Minister’s desk – whoever that may be after the election – ready for them to respond when they start work in June.

The petition was signed by over 38,000 Fairtrade, Traidcraft and Global Citizen supporters, with a clear message to the Trade Minister: act fast to reassure farmers and workers in developing countries that they won’t lose out in our post-Brexit trade negotiations.

Response from the Prime Minister to our petition (March 2017)

We're pleased to say we've finally received a response from Prime Minister Theresa May to the petition 50,000 Fairtrade supporters signed last autumn. 

In her letter to our Chief Executive, Michael Gidney, she says that her government is 'committed to creating a trade policy that will work for everyone, including the world's poorest'. Read it in full here

We've now got a clear commitment to ensuring the UK's trade works for the poorest. But the campaign isn't over yet. We know that commitments can crumble when negotiations get down to the details. That's why we petitioned the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, to take further steps to ensure farmers and workers in developing countries are protected.  

New Brexit report launched (February 2017)

During Fairtrade Fortnight 2017 we launched our new report - Brexit: Let's change trade for good. A joint publication between ourselves and Traidcraft, it reveals the potential untold human cost behind Brexit, as well as the unprecedented opportunity it presents for the UK to become a world leader in fairer trade. 

Read it in full here. 

MP briefing launched (January 2017)

In January 2017, the CEOs of Fairtrade Foundation, Traidcraft, Oxfam, Christian Aid and the Trade Justice Movement wrote to MPs with a post-Brexit briefing paper to provide them with further information about the role the UK can play in setting the gold standard in trade policy that tackles global poverty as we leave the EU. 

Petition handed in to No.10 (December 2016)

In autumn 2016, over 50,000 supporters signed a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, asking her to publicly commit to post-Brexit trade deals and business policies that will tackle global poverty and deliver a fair deal to farmers and workers in developing countries. 

On Thursday 1 December 2016 Fairtrade supporters and staff delivered a copy of the letter along with 50,057 signatures to Number 10 Downing Street.  

FAQs

Did the Fairtrade Foundation campaign for the UK to leave or stay in the European Union?

We did not actively campaign in the referendum for either outcome. This is because as a registered charity, we follow the guidelines of the Charity Commission – we could not be perceived as attempting to influence the vote either way.

We have made no judgements or statements before or after the vote on whether the decision to leave is right or wrong for the UK. As an organisation, we believe our responsibility is to explain what we think are the implications of the result, and of course to campaign on behalf of Fairtrade farmers and workers who will be affected.

Our view on the implications of Brexit prior to the referendum and now is the same: it raises risks for farmers and workers due to the renegotiation of trading relationships, disruption to supply chains and possible changes to UK policies. But it is also an unprecedented opportunity to renegotiate trade that is fair and works to tackle global poverty. 

What about British farmers? Why aren’t you working to support them too?

Fairtrade was established specifically to support the most disadvantaged producers in the world by using trade as a tool for sustainable development.

The Fairtrade movement and certification scheme were born from the needs of farmers and workers in developing countries living on the absolute poverty line with little or no social safety net and far removed from the markets they sell to. British farmers are able to take their demands for a fairer deal into supermarkets, lobby their MPs directly or have their voice heard through farmers’ unions. The farmers and farm workers we represent do not have this access. They often have little infrastructural support, social security systems or other safety nets if they cannot get a fair price for their products.  

Nevertheless, we stand in solidarity with British farmers. We believe all farmers and workers wherever they are should get paid a fair price that covers their costs of production. We think that the principles behind fair trade can help springboard wider debate on improving the situation for UK farmers, and we are keen to build partnerships with other organisations such as the Soil Association or farmers networks, so that we can together support farmers both at home and abroad. You can read about our thoughts on fair trade milk and the potential solutions on our blog. We think there is plenty of scope for us to campaign together as a movement for fairer trade, but believe the FAIRTRADE Mark itself should continue to focus on the poorest and most marginalised farmers and workers in the world.