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BRITAIN is conducting secret trade talks with at least one foreign state, government lawyers admitted today.
The revelation emerged on the final day of Global Justice Now’s legal battle to force the Information Commissioner’s Office to release details of trade talks already known to be under way with more than a dozen countries.
At a hearing in central London, government lawyers admitted that preliminary trade talks have been held in secret, supposedly because they are too sensitive to be made public.
Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden said this reflected the “undemocratic nature” of the talks, adding that they are “even less transparent than we thought.”
He explained: “Given the scope of modern trade talks to affect so many aspects of our society and our lives, this is a gaping democratic deficit which must be corrected as a matter of urgency.”
According to Mr Dearden, “even former civil servants suggested that the government’s approach to transparency was outdated and counter-productive to achieving good trade deals.”
Concerns have been raised that post-Brexit trade agreements could put public services, the NHS and consumer standards at risk.
The hearing comes two years after Global Justice Now requested details of trade talks between Britain and more than a dozen countries, including the US, Gulf states and China.
Although the government initially refused to release the documents, an appeal later forced it to hand over some of the files.
Among them were papers suggesting that the NHS was going to be opened up to US private firms. These documents were held up by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at a press conference during last year’s general election campaign.
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