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 Traidcraft and other organisations including Oxfam, the Trade Justice Movement, Christian Aid, CAFOD, Action Aid, Tearfund and Global Citizen for our post-Brexit trade deals to deliver a fair deal for millions of vulnerable farmers and workers in developing countries.  

This could be the moment the UK starts trading in a way that delivers a fair deal for everyone. We could set the gold standard in trade policy that tackles global poverty by seizing opportunities such as:

  • Making it easier for farmers in developing countries to process and package their produce themselves, increasing the income they can earn from their exports
  • Putting in place trade rules that allow the poorest countries to import their produce into the UK tariff and quota free without us forcing them to do the same for our goods, so they can truly benefit from trading with us 
  • Making sure our trade rules and investment deals work towards international commitments on the environment, climate change, human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.

But too often in the past, changes to trade rules and new trade deals have harmed not helped the poorest people who work hard to grow the food we love. We need to manage risks such as: 

  • Leaving the EU’s single market and customs area without putting in place measures similar to the ones which currently protect farmers in the poorest developing countries. Doing this would immediately punish millions of farmers and workers with an extra £1 billion import tax bill
  • Rushing into free trade agreements with wealthier countries such as the US, China and Brazil without ensuring that these deals won't undercut very poor countries which depend on the UK for much of their sales.

If we can seize the opportunities and manage the risks Brexit presents, we have the chance to change trade for good. Brexit is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver truly fair trade that brings prosperity to the poorest countries around the world as well as the UK.

Latest News

Sign the petition: stop out trade deals being done in the dark (October 2017)

Brexit negotiations are in the media spotlight right now. But there’s one worrying issue not getting any attention: the fact that we currently have no say over our future trade deals.

That’s right. At present, parliament, the public and producers have no power to suggest improvements to or stop a trade agreement, no matter how damaging it may be to the UK or farmers and workers in developing countries.

We must have a democratic and transparent process for negotiating and signing trade deals.

Sign the petition to stop our future trade deals being done in the dark.

Want to know about the issue in more detail? 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. 

Fairtrade and the General Election (April - June 2017)

Fairtrade Foundation is not party political, so we won’t be sharing any views on the General Election. However if you’d like to get your MP candidates’ views on fair trade and Brexit, here are some suggestions for questions you could ask them:

If elected:

  1. How will you ensure that the UK’s future trade deals will help reduce poverty in developing countries?
  2. Will you make sure that Parliament scrutinises planned trade deals to make sure they will help, not harm, developing countries - so that those affected can have a say over trade decisions which affect them?
  3. How will you ensure that UK businesses pay fair prices, uphold human rights and ensure environmental responsibility when buying from developing countries?
  4. How will you use the UK’s aid budget to help the poorest farmers in developing countries trade their way out of poverty?

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.

We'll let you know as soon as we hear back.  

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're petitioning the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, to take further steps to ensure farmers and workers in developing countries are protected.  Find out more and sign the petition here

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.  

We'll let you know as soon as we receive a response from the Prime Minister. 


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.