What Can Brexit mean for Fairtrade?
No matter how you voted (if at all) in the referendum, the result is the UK is leaving the European Union. Our government will soon undergo formal negotiations to determine the relationship we will have with the EU, and these can last up to two years. There has been speculation about the deal that will be negotiated, and Theresa May is promising to get the best one possible. One thing we’d like to see is Fairtrade at the forefront of any deal.
Leaving the EU means most of the UK’s trade deals will need to be renegotiated, and that offers the perfect opportunity to ensure fairness is at the core of our future international trade. Over the next two years we need to ensure the government is held to account and makes the right trade decisions when it comes to Fairtrade producers.
Michael Gidney, the CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation has said ‘this could be an opportunity to make a promise to developing countries that they will be able to access UK markets in an equivalent or better way than in the EU’. Since Britain joined the EEU in 1973 it has grown to be the largest consumer in Fairtrade goods with other £1.6bn in sales every year, and we should continue to support Fairtrade farmers in developing countries in this way.
Just because we are leaving the EU we do not have to abandon its policies. The EU has allowed for producers in many countries to have more clearly defined rights on health and safety, wage bargaining along with changing attitudes towards child labour – values we should strive to uphold. If we want to be a real global leader we should continue championing the Fairtrade movement by supporting and committing to Fairtrade schemes as the EU has always done.
It’s not only direct trading with developing countries that can disrupt sales for Fairtrade producers. As the cost of trade with other countries changes so too will the access to the market, and we know that it is more difficult for smaller producers to gain access to sell their goods. The UK government needs to guarantee quota-free market access for companies that can show their products have a fairly paid supply chain, are environmentally friendly and are slavery free to promote the constant development of Fairtrade practices, we should always strive to be the front runners in doing the right thing.
I would love it if Brexit meant that we will look to have fairer trade deals with other countries around the world. Sadly, I fear it will be the opposite. The UK will sell it’s soul (and environment, health, employment rights) in order to gain deals with countries that we cannot hope to compete with.