Letter to the Trade Secretary regarding the EU Trade Bill and disability rights

16 July 2018

Business Disability Forum has joined disability and human rights campaigners in writing to Trade Secretary Liam Fox, warning that ministerial powers in the Trade Bill could be used to remove disabled people’s rights – including access to public transport – after Brexit.

Liberty, Business Disability Forum, Amnesty International, Disability Rights UK and 16 other groups are concerned by provisions in the Bill that let ministers change laws like the Equality Act without parliamentary scrutiny, in order to implement international trade agreements.

The Equality Act requires public vehicles to be accessible for disabled people – who rely far more than non-disabled people on public transport to access leisure facilities, local services and shops. Accessible public transport is also critical to disabled people’s ability to work.

Under the Trade Bill, a minister could remove this requirement in the name of striking an international trade deal on vehicle manufacturing without consulting MPs. 

Ahead of Tuesday's Commons vote on the plans, campaigners urged Mr Fox to add a commitment to the text of the Bill to protect human rights and equality laws as the UK leaves the European Union. They claimed the ministerial powers “cannot be justified” to achieve the Bill’s stated aim – of rolling over existing trade agreements the UK has through our membership of the EU.

The letter has been signed by: Liberty, Business Disability Forum, Amnesty International, Disability Rights UK, Action on Hearing Loss, United Response, British Stammering Association, Leonard Cheshire, Equality and Diversity Forum, Women’s Budget Group, Just Fair, René Cassin, Royal National Institute of Blind People, National Aids Trust, Disability Law Service, Dimensions, Research Institute of Disabled Consumers, Ambitious About Autism, Mencap, and Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations.

Click here to read the joint letter to the Trade Secretary (pdf).