12:36, March 14 340 0 theguardian.com

2018-03-14 12:36:04
Free trade and human rights as vital pillars of post-Brexit foreign policy

Last October we wrote to the Brexit secretary and chancellor asking for the release of impact studies on 58 sectors of the economy and a Treasury report exploring alternative free trade arrangements post-Brexit. We believed everyone had a right to this information and that political elites should not leave people in the dark about the future of their country. The government failed to heed our requests, so we initiated judicial review proceedings supported by crowdfunding. Last Tuesday, the high court refused us permission but two days later the Exiting the EU select committee published a document containing a summary of the sectoral studies – at least in part – which incorporated the Treasury’s work on the trade effects of Brexit. With information now in the public domain that is more recent than what we were seeking, we have decided not to continue our appeal.

This battle for transparency was won by political pressure and huge public support. It is also clear that litigation helped keep the government under pressure and maintained a focus on the public’s right to know. We are also enormously grateful to the lawyers who agreed to support this important piece of public interest litigation free of charge and all those who supported crowdfunding. The information now available for all to see confirms our suspicions – namely that under any Brexit scenario, leaving the EU will be harmful to the UK economy and to British jobs. The government’s attempts to keep a lid on this information has further undermined their case for a hard Brexit, or indeed for any sort of Brexit at all.

Molly Scott Cato MEP

Jolyon Maugham QC (Good Law Project)

The foreign affairs select committee is right to lament the lack of strategy and funding behind the government’s aspiration for a post-Brexit “Global Britain” (Foreign Office policy of Global Britain is ‘superficial branding’, 12 March). Since Britain is the home of free trade and human rights, and both are essential for our prosperity and security, these should be two central pillars of this country’s post-Brexit foreign policy.

There are specific policies that Britain could adopt to strengthen human rights overseas. The Department for International Trade should ensure future trade deals, where possible, include obligations to improve human rights in the partner countries. The Department for International Development should match the funding provided by the Foreign Office for the Magna Carta Fund, which supports organisations in other countries improve human rights. The UK should increase its financial contributions to the international criminal court. We should remain a proud signatory and champion of the European convention on human rights. Finally, in the Brexit negotiations, Britain should offer – on a conditional basis – continued funding of the European Development Fund.

Ryan Shorthouse

Director, Bright Blue

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