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Chinese trade ‘could end’ under post-Brexit human rights law

Chinese trade ‘could end’ under post-Brexit law to stop the UK making agreements with governments that abuse human rights

  • Ministers could be banned signing trade deals with human rights abusers 
  • A cross-party group of peers is seeking to amend the Government’s trade bill
  • Trade with countries such as China could be affected if the bill is signed into law
  • Up to 100 Tory MPs are sympathetic to restricting trade with China  

Trade with China could be blocked under a new law that would stop the UK dealing with governments accused of genocide.

A cross-party group of peers will amend the Government’s flagship post-Brexit trade Bill to prevent ministers from making trade deals with countries that abuse human rights – with backers including Sir Iain Duncan Smith and veteran human rights campaigner David Alton. 

The amendments could include China, which has been accused of abusing Uighur Muslims by sending them to re-education camps, sterilising women and using them as slave labour. When the legislation reaches the Commons, up to 100 Tory MPs may rebel and back it, meaning trade with China could be affected.

Peers in the House of Lords are set to amend the Government’s new Trade Bill to prevent ministers from signing deals with countries suspected of abusing human rights 

If accepted, the amendment could prevent the government from agreeing a deal with China because of Beijing's treatment of the Uighur people in Xinjiang province, file photo

If accepted, the amendment could prevent the government from agreeing a deal with China because of Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur people in Xinjiang province, file photo

Two separate amendments on the topic will be debated in the Lords on Monday and both have Labour, Lib Dem and cross-bench support. The amendments should reach the Commons in late January.

The plans would mean any trade negotiations must be preceded by an assessment of the other country’s human rights record. Ministers would be obliged to show any deal would comply with its human rights obligations and would have to produce an annual report.

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