A cross-party group of MP’s have signed a letter condemning Government’s refusal to explain or publish legal analysis of articles affecting privacy in the proposed UK-Japan Trade Agreement.
The move comes in response to the debate over the text of the proposed UK-Japan Trade Agreement.
The Agreement’s implications for privacy and the future of data protection standards for data transfers have been raised by academics and campaigners, but so far dismissed by Government without detailed explanation.
This has highlighted the weakness of Parliament to scrutinise and challenge Trade Agreements under current trade legislation.
Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group who have organised this letter said:
“Our Parliament is sovereign and critical issues such as UK citizens’ right to privacy and control over personal data must not become a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. Trade Agreements are binding legal documents and the Government must publish its legal analysis of the UK-Japan Trade Agreement’s articles on our privacy.
“Forcing Parliament to rush through a legally binding Trade Agreement risks grave consequences for the rights and liberties of British citizens and residents.”
Former Labour Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP said: “Parliament simply must be told what these articles limiting privacy really mean, and why the Government signed them. Privacy and trust are vital in any democracy and economy. It is wrong to ask Parliament to support articles in a trade agreement without explaining to Parliament what the consequences of agreeing them may be.”
Labour MP for Norwich South Clive Lewis MP said: “The right to privacy and control over personal data should not be a bargaining chip on the negotiating table. Yet the Government has signed up to articles in the Japan trade agreement that places limits on legislation to defend privacy when data is exported. Parliament and the public have a right to know the impact of these legally binding commitments. How trade deals are done must change in the future so that elected representatives in Parliament, not the Government, sets the negotiation mandate, so that rights are protected in every trade deal done.”
Green Party Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas MP, said: “Parliament is in the dark about the consequences for privacy. We have not seen any legal analysis of these articles, so it’s impossible to know if UK protections could be undermined in other countries too. It is completely unacceptable for trade agreements to be pushed forward with so little information for Parliament and the public.”
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Treasury and International Trade, Christine Jardine MP said: “We need answers, and quickly. The Government must explain the risks of signing articles pushing the free flow of data and limiting privacy protection. This is a legal text with legal consequences. The Government must provide its legal analysis, and subject that to scrutiny. Anything less demeans Parliament.”
Full list of signatories
Diane Abbott MP
Deidre Brock MP
Kevin Brennan MP
Kate Buckey MP
Alistair Carmichael MP
Wendy Chamberlain MP
Daisy Cooper MP
Martyn Day MP
Andrew Gwynne MP
Christine Jardine MP
Ben Lake MP
Clive Lewis MP
Caroline Lucas MP
Layla Moran MP
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP
Mick Whitley MP
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Notes to the Editor:
MPs letter can be viewed here.