Unions have criticised the Government for excluding workers’ voices from post-Brexit trade talks.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has recruited dozens of business chiefs and farmers to help shape trade policy once the UK severs ties with the EU at the end of the year.
But trade unions have been entirely excluded from the 11 trade advisory groups, which Ms Truss said would bring business “closer to the negotiating table”.
Unions bosses warned “workers will suffer” if the Government failed to involve them in talks.
Animal welfare campaigners such as the RSPCA and consumer groups have also been left out – despite concerns that a US trade deal could slash food standards by allowing chlorinated chicken in British shops.
The outcry comes amid a backlash over reports that DIT was planning to hand a senior trade role to former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Kathleen Walker Shaw, GMB Officer for International Trade, told the Mirror: “Do we need a clearer sign of the times when we have a UK Government that prefers to hear from a washed up former Australian PM than our own workforce on the shape of the UK’s future trade deals?
“Good trade deals mean listening to the voice of workers – it is our jobs, rights and the future of our public and health services on the line.
“The government might try to silence our voice, and appoint tsars to rebut concerns, but the need for wide scrutiny on these negotiations in the public interest will not go away.”
Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, said: “It’s clear from the makeup of these new advisory groups that the government would rather listen to a rejected Australian PM than to the voice of its own workers.
“Good trade deals are vital to the economy but any deal which undercuts pay or workers’ rights is a bad deal for this country.
“If the government isn’t listening to the voice of workers it will not get this right and it is workers who will suffer.”
Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, called on the Government to reconsider.
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She said: “The UK needs trade deals that promote good jobs, protect workers’ rights and safeguard public services like the NHS. The government must reconsider.
“It is hard to see how our trade deals can be negotiated in the wider public interest if workers’ voices are excluded.”
A DIT spokesperson said: “The TAGs are just one part of the government’s external engagement on international trade. We recognise the important position that civil society organisations such as trade unions occupy in society, and the unique insight they can offer on important issues.
“We are committed to drawing on their expertise as we develop our trade policy positions.”