Our place on the global stage post-Brexit

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2018 National Delegate Conference
21 February 2018

Conference is concerned that post-Brexit, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights will be undermined at home and abroad due to the Tory Government‘s weak and wobbly Brexit and due to trade negotiations failing to take into account social and environmental protections, workers and human rights.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox started discussions on a potential future trade deal between the United Kingdom and the United States at the first meeting of the UK-US Trade Working Group in July 2017, despite European Union (EU) rules meaning the United Kingdom cannot sign a trade deal until it has left the EU.

Fox had already announced in 2016 that the UK would open new trade offices in 3 US cities, including Raleigh, North Carolina which introduced the “Bathroom Law” discriminating against trans people and contributing to a vitriolic atmosphere of hate for LGBT people.

The US has not ratified some of the most fundamental labour rights conventions set out by the International Labour Organisation, including freedom of association and collective bargaining.

The UK-US trade working group is the first of ten such groups that the Department of International Trade (DIT) is setting up involving 15 countries, including China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Crawford Falconer, who started at the DIT as Chief Trade Negotiations Adviser in August 2017, was a member of the Legatum Institute think tank’s “special trade commission” which drew up a report calling for the UK’s regulations to be “put on the table” in trade negotiations with other countries.

Conference is concerned that future trade deals will be made with countries that have little regard for public services, trade union rights, or human rights of LGBT people and workers. Painstaking work over decades to build UK public services that are accessible and inclusive will be dismantled if profit becomes the only driver, which will detrimentally impact the most disadvantaged in society, who are the most reliant on public services and most likely to be in precarious employment.

The UK government still maintains it wishes to promote LGBT equality in its international work, while its actions on trade would suggest the opposite.

Conference notes opportunities to take our campaigns forward, including around the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), hosted by the UK in April 2018. The Commonwealth defines itself as an association ‘committed to’ equality, human rights and non-discrimination, but 36 of its 52 member states still retain laws that criminalise consensual same sex relations, and many also fail to recognise or uphold the rights of their trans citizens. Those laws are largely a shameful legacy of British imperialism and colonialism, and the trade union movement has an important role to play in working for change, alongside civil society organisations representing LGBT people living in the countries that retain these laws.

Conference therefore welcomes the continuing work of the national LGBT committee to build on links with international allies including LGBT networks in other unions and global union bodies, and LGBT community organisations including ILGA and the Commonwealth Equality Network.

Conference therefore instructs the National Executive Council, working with the national LGBT committee, other relevant structures of the union and appropriate external organisations to:

1)Continue to campaign for the inclusion of social and environmental protections, LGBT, human and workers rights in trade negotiations and for no less protection than we have now;

2)Continue work relating to the Commonwealth following the 2018 CHOGM;

3)Raise awareness on these issues and engage branches, regions and self-organised groups in appropriate campaigns.