HUMAN rights should be remembered “even in the rush to make new trade agreements” after Brexit, the former Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth, has said.
Speaking in the House of Lords earlier this month, Lord Harries said: “We must continue to press for the observance of human rights wherever they are denied, even when we are anxious to trade with the countries concerned.
“After Brexit, this House and the other place will have a particular responsibility to scrutinise trade agreements, to ensure that maximising trade is not done at the expense of ignoring human-rights considerations.”
The Lords debated the motion “that this House takes note of the case for ensuring that human rights are respected in any future trade deals with other countries”.
Lord Harries warned that human rights were increasingly under threat. He argued: “There is hardly a country in the world where there is not some cause for concern, and in many there is a flagrant denial of the rights we rightly take for granted in this country.”
He continued: “After Brexit, there will be desperate efforts to maximise trade wherever it can be found. . .
“The pressure will be enormous. At a time like that, it will be particularly important to keep in mind the fundamental values for which this country stands.”
He said that Parliament should be given the power to scrutinise trade agreements during their formulation, so that human-rights aspects could be monitored.
He argued: “With the continuing denial of human rights in so many countries, it may be that any British government would get weary of raising these issues with the governments concerned.
“We must not get weary or shrug our shoulders. If those suffering individuals do not have a voice through us, where will they have one?”
The Government’s spokeswoman in the Lords, Baroness Berridge, responded: “The goal is to maximise the benefits of trade, while ensuring that we stay true to our core values, including the promotion and advancement of international human-rights obligations.
“After Brexit, we will have the opportunity to promote these values as an independent champion of free, fair, rules-based international trade, striking out to seize the golden opportunities to strengthen our trading relationship with fast-growing economies around the world.”