Europe’s biggest education union has joined various civil groups and organisations to call for a post-Brexit trade deal based on rights, justice and sustainability, and to “defend education as a public service”.
Following the publication of the UK’s trade negotiation objectives earlier this week, the National Education Union (NEU) has joined other trade unions, civil groups and environmental organisations in calling for a UK-EU trade deal that is based on human rights, justice and sustainability.
The organisations have joined forces to outline a number of priorities for the upcoming negotiations, which include setting limits on social and environmental regulations and ensuring the need for future changes to UK legislation to improve rather than lower standards.
There are concerns that basic protections such as food standards, workers’ rights and air quality could be eroded following Brexit and the groups, which collectively represent six million people in the UK, are calling for a new approach to UK trade policy. They are pressing for an approach that protects public services, secures decent jobs and workers’ rights, protects human rights, ensures quality food and animal welfare, and is consistent with our climate change responsibilities.
Dr Mary Bousted, NEU’s joint general secretary, said:
“As the largest education union in Europe, the NEU will continue to work closely with our European counterparts in support of workers’ rights and environmental protections. Crucially we will also defend education as a public service, not as a commodity that can be traded by corporate interests that have no place in our education system. Education and other public services are not ‘tradable’ and must not be covered by trade rules.”
Laura Bannister, the senior advisor at the Trade Justice Movement added:
“The UK’s negotiating mandate raises serious concerns and threatens to reduce protections for workers and our efforts to tackle climate change. The EU-UK treaty should lock in place high standards where they exist, while preserving our government’s policy space to go above and beyond them. The EU’s level playing field provisions offer a good baseline for this. The EU-UK trade deal must be truly innovative, and not replicate provisions from other deals that undermine these goals. This is an opportunity to reinvent trade policy and ensure it truly serves the public interest.”
Kierra Box, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth said:
“If we’re to take the UK government’s promise of ‘the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth’ seriously, all future trade deals – including with our most important trading partners in the EU – must lock in the highest possible environmental standards.
“These negotiations should start aim to secure a relationship that supports a zero-carbon future, bolsters current environmental and animal welfare protections, and helps both sides to meet the challenge of the climate and nature emergency we face.
“Refusing to nail down ambitious environmental commitments is a worrying start, which casts the government’s promises in serious doubt. The UK’s negotiating team must urgently change tack if we’re to have any hope of meeting government commitments to lead the world when it comes to protecting our environment.”
The joint statement from all 15 of the groups and organisations is available on the Trade Justice Movement’s website.
The groups involved are: