Much to fear from post-Brexit trade deals with ISDS mechanisms | Letters

Investor-state dispute settlement is a threat to human rights, health and the environment, say representatives of trade unions, charities and faith groups

On Thursday in parliament, MPs will get their first chance to debate post-Brexit trade deals, including with the United States. There is every sign that these deals will contain controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, after trade secretary Liam Fox reaffirmed the government’s support two weeks ago.

ISDS clauses in trade deals allow foreign investors to sue national governments for any measures that harm their profits. These cases take place in secretive private arbitration courts and can cost the taxpayer billions. Previous cases brought against governments using ISDS include a Swedish energy firm suing Germany for introducing policies to curb water pollution; US pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly suing Canada for trying to keep medicines affordable; and French multinational Veolia suing Egypt for increasing its national minimum wage.

ISDS is a dangerous threat to human rights, health and the environment. It can make it difficult for governments to introduce policies on these issues, even when they have democratic support. This is particularly problematic for developing countries, which face a high proportion of cases, further depleting the resources they have available to implement the sustainable development goals. ISDS courts give international investors a legal system that neither ordinary people nor domestic businesses can access, with low levels of transparency, no appeals system and high costs.

Brexit means that the UK is likely to adopt an independent trade policy for the first time in over 40 years. As charities, trade unions and faith groups representing civil society, we are campaigning against ISDS in current and future trade and investment agreements. Liam Fox should take seriously the concerns of civil society and set out a trade policy that puts people and planet before corporate interests. Sign up at www.stopisds.org.uk
Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison
Craig Bennett CEO, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Esther Stevenson CEO Traidcraft Exchange
Farah Nazeer Deputy director of advocacy, ActionAid UK
Nick Dearden Director, Global Justice Now
James Thornton CEO, ClientEarth
Martin Drewry Director, Health Poverty Action
Asad Rehman Executive director, War on Want
Ruth Bergan Senior advisor, Trade Justice Movement
Michael Buraimoh Director, Action for Southern Africa
Alistair Smith Director, Banana Link
Sarah Hirom Trustee, One World Week
Jim Killock Executive director, Open Rights Group
Liz Murray Coordinator, Trade Justice Scotland Coalition
Saoirse Fitzpatrick Advocacy manager, STOPAIDS
Marilyn Croser Director, CORE Coalition

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