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ClientEarth Communications

15th March 2018

Rule of law

UK must outlaw future trade deals with secret courts, which will risk ‘Green Brexit’

The UK should put environmental protection at the heart of its trade policy, by banning deals that allow big corporations access to their own clandestine courts.

ClientEarth CEO, James Thornton, has today called for the UK to make controversial trade deals that allow companies to sideline domestic courts and sue governments over environmental laws, illegal.

Delivering a speech at a Green Brexit conference, that was also addressed by the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, Thornton said: “We can integrate environmental protection throughout trade policy. We can refuse to trade with countries that do not participate adequately in key international agreements, like the Paris Accord.

“Perhaps most importantly, we need to stay away from tribunals that allow big corporations to sue governments over environmental rule making. These deals create an environmental penalty for an economic crime.”

The European Court of Justice last week ruled that such practices are against EU law.

“We should make them illegal here too,” Thornton added, in a keynote speech which set out how Britain can and must become a world leader on environmental protection after leaving the EU.

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In a matter of weeks, the UK government is due to publish its proposals for a new watchdog that will hold the government and public authorities to account on environmental standards. This consultation will be a key test of the government’s commitment to a green brexit.

Thornton told the conference: “This body will need to have enough bark and enough bite so that when the government won’t listen, the courts will be able to make them. Courts should be empowered to write specific injunctions that require actions such as cleaning up our air.”

By implementing these policies, the UK could position itself as a world-leader on the environment and inspire other nations once Britain leaves the EU.