Global Justice Now Cambridge Youth host Saturday protest at ‘secret’ UK-US trade deal
The Cambridge youth arm of Global Justice Now will host a peaceful protest on Christ’s Pieces on Saturday (October 24), between 12 and 2pm, to accelerate opposition to the trade deal currently being negotiated between the UK and US. The protest in Cambridge is part of a national day of action to oppose the deal, which could reduce food quality, workers’ rights and environmental standards in the UK and is currently being negotiated without Parliamentary scrutiny.
Confirmed speakers include Dan Greef, Labour parliamentary candidate for South Cambridgeshire at the last three general elections; Paul Browne, chair of Cambridge for Europe; Jamie Dalzell, Cambridge City councillor; Jocelynne Scutt, former Cambridge City councillor, barrister and human rights lawyer, and a message of support from Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner.
“Global Justice Now want to raise awareness of the problems this trade deal could bring to people across the UK, and to make sure that this damaging deal is stopped, and Saturday’s protest is a part of that,” says co-organiser Ana Serrano, head of the Global Justice Now Cambridge Youth Network. “The trade deal currently being negotiated with the US in secret would lower food standards, weaken workers’ rights, block climate action, and leave public services including the NHS open to privatisation. It would be extremely damaging for people in Cambridgeshire and across the country.”
Global Justice Now is a social and economic justice organisation campaigning to develop a fairer world, says that legitimate public interest is being sidelined in the rush to broker a deal as the UK finally transitions away from the EU in 2021. The UK’s rebrand as a stand-alone nation state involves remaking relationships with all its trading partners: formal negotiations can only begin once the UK has left the EU, but the US administration published its negotiating objectives in February 2019. Some of the provisions “would have a profound negative impact on health, welfare and the environment”, says the group.
“Giant industrial farming companies dominate the US market, and would love to get their hands on Cambridgeshire land, and their cheap, low-quality products on to our supermarket shelves,” says the other co-organiser, Cambridge University alumnus Cameron Holloway, a member of Global Justice Now. “Local farmers would be forced to lower their standards to compete with the influx of cheaply produced goods such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef, or face losing their livelihoods. Adopting US food standards would damage the health of people across the UK - food poisoning is ten times more frequent in the US than the UK, the US allows 72 pesticides not allowed in the UK, and one study found toxic metals in 95 per cent of baby food. The average person in the US works 250 more hours per year than the UK average, and they have many fewer protections for workers. If these rules were adopted in the UK as part of a trade deal, working people in Cambridgeshire would suffer the consequences.
“It would also be far more difficult for the UK government to implement laws and regulations to combat low food standards, poor workers’ rights, or the climate crisis, as secret corporate courts, which would be part of the deal, would allow US companies to sue the UK government for any lost revenue, if they wanted to, say, tax diesel cars or fossil fuels more heavily. This could obstruct work towards a sustainable Cambridge.
“Furthermore, the UK government has predicted that a trade deal with the US would, in the best case scenario, lead to a 0.16 per cent increase in GDP over 15 years. Even these small gains would be very unlikely to benefit anyone other than investors and multinational corporations, given that the increased economic activity would involve US companies that are not subject to UK regulations and do not pay tax here. With public services such as the NHS, BBC and Post Office likely to be part of any deal, people in Cambridgeshire could face higher costs for basic amenities, and see more of their taxes being funnelled to US multinationals as part of lucrative government contracts.”
As an exception to the Rule of Six, protests are still legal. Masks and social distancing will be compulsory, and a track and trace system will be in operation. For those who want to take part but can’t make it to the protest, there is an online rally taking place later in the day , with speakers including Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Emily Thornberry and Green Party Co-Leader Sian Berry.
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