UK must not compromise Palestinians in post-Brexit Israel trade talks: Amnesty
The UK's upcoming trade deal with Israel must not be at the expense of Palestinians, global rights watchdog Amnesty International urged ahead of London's negotiations with the Israeli government.
Britain on Wednesday started free trade talks with Israel, aimed at boosting ties in the services and technology sectors as it seeks new trade deals as part of its post-Brexit strategy.
Amnesty International has warned the UK to take into account Palestinian rights during the negotiations and to ensure products from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are not imported as part of the deal.
“A new trade deal with Israel must not be a betrayal of Palestinians’ human rights and must uphold the UK’s obligations under international law", said Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s Economic Affairs Director.
“In their haste to agree a shiny new trade deal with Israel, there’s a distinct danger that UK negotiators will fail to ensure absolute clarity over the precise origins of goods destined for the UK market", he added.
There is a worry that Israeli products from illegal settlements may be imported under the guise of the imports being labelled as coming from within Israel's 1948 borders.
The international community considers the settlements to be illegal and a key barrier to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Amnesty and other groups consider the settlements to be part of an apartheid policy by Israel.
In 2015, the European Union ruled that all products made in Israeli settlements and imported to Europe could not be labelled "Made in Israel", and must include the word "settlement" under EU consumer law.
“The bottom line here is that UK-Israel trade should not incentivise Israel’s system of apartheid against the Palestinians”, Frankental urged.
The current trade deal between the two countries is based on an old EU deal that has no specific provisions on services, Britain said, adding that the trading relationship is currently worth 5 billion pounds ($6 billion) a year.
When it left the EU, Britain signed deals to keep existing trade arrangements in place but later revisited them in search of better terms, including the agreement with Israel.
"The UK and Israel are both modern, hi-tech services superpowers, but our current trading relationship is based on an agreement from 1995, before smartphones, the internet, and digitally delivered services transformed the global economy," trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said.
"Combining the power of our economies in a revamped trade deal will boost trade, support jobs and help take our economic relationship to the next level."
Reuters contributed to this report.