Protect the right to boycott

The government is proposing an ‘anti-boycott bill’ that, if passed, could dramatically affect our ability to campaign for social and climate justice in the UK and around the world.

We as a collection of organisations have written the following statement to express our opposition to the bill:

Civil Society Statement

As a group of civil society organisations made up of trade unions, charities, NGOs, faith, climate justice, human rights, cultural, campaigning, and solidarity organisations, we advocate for the right of public bodies to decide not to purchase or procure from, or invest in companies involved in human rights abuse, abuse of workers’ rights, destruction of our planet, or any other harmful or illegal acts. We therefore oppose the government’s proposed law to stop public bodies from taking such actions.

The government has indicated that a main intention of any legislation is to ensure that public bodies follow UK foreign policy in their purchasing, procurement, and investment decisions, particularly relating to Israel and Palestine. We are concerned that this would prevent public bodies from deciding not to invest in or procure from companies complicit in the violation of the rights of the Palestinian people. We affirm that it is the right of public bodies to do so, and in fact a responsibility to break ties with companies contributing to abuses of rights and violations of international law in occupied Palestine and anywhere else where such acts occur.

From bus boycotts against racial segregation to divestment from fossil fuel companies to arms embargoes against apartheid, boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns have been applied throughout history to put economic, cultural, or political pressure on a regime, institution, or company to force it to change abusive, discriminatory, or illegal policies. If passed, this law will stifle a wide range of campaigns concerned with the arms trade, climate justice, human rights, international law, and international solidarity with oppressed peoples struggling for justice. The proposed law presents a threat to freedom of expression, and the ability of public bodies and democratic institutions to spend, invest and trade ethically in line with international law and human rights.

We call on the UK government to immediately halt this bill, on opposition parties to oppose it and on civil society to mobilise in support of the right to boycott in the cause of justice.

Signatories

  • Amos trust
  • Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA)
  • Anti Apartheid Movement Archives Committee
  • Artists for Palestine UK
  • Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
  • British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
  • BRISMES Campaigns
  • British Palestinian Council
  • Campaign Against Arms Trade
  • Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
  • Communication Workers Union (CWU)
  • Europal Forum
  • European Legal Support Centre
  • Friends of Birzeit University (FOBZU)
  • Free Speech on Israel
  • Amos trust
  • Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA)
  • Anti Apartheid Movement Archives Committee
  • Artists for Palestine UK
  • Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
  • British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
  • BRISMES Campaigns
  • British Palestinian Council
  • Campaign Against Arms Trade
  • Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
  • Communication Workers Union (CWU)
  • Europal Forum
  • European Legal Support Centre
  • Friends of Birzeit University (FOBZU)
  • Free Speech on Israel
  • Friends of Al Aqsa
  • Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
  • Global Justice Now
  • Greenpeace UK
  • Institute of Race Relations
  • International Centre of Justice for Palestinians
  • Israeli Committee against House Demolitions UK
  • Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JJP)
  • Labour and Palestine
  • Liberty
  • London Mining Network
  • Makan
  • Methodist Church in Britain
  • Movement for the Abolition of War
  • Muslim Association of Britain
  • Na’amod: UK Jews Against the Occupation.
  • National Education Union
  • National Union of Students
  • Netpol
  • Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • Palestinian Forum in Britain (PFB)
  • People and Planet
  • Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
  • Quaker Roots
  • Quakers in Britain
  • Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers Union (RMT)
  • Sabeel-Kairos UK
  • SOS-UK (NUS climate campaign)
  • Stamp out Poverty
  • Transport Salaried Staffs Association Union (TSSA)
  • UNISON
  • Unite the Union
  • United Reformed Church
  • University and College Union (UCU)
  • War on Want
  • Western Sahara Campaign
  • Friends of Al Aqsa
  • Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
  • Global Justice Now
  • Greenpeace UK
  • Institute of Race Relations
  • International Centre of Justice for Palestinians
  • Israeli Committee against House Demolitions UK
  • Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JJP)
  • Labour and Palestine
  • Liberty
  • London Mining Network
  • Makan
  • Methodist Church in Britain
  • Movement for the Abolition of War
  • Muslim Association of Britain
  • Na’amod: UK Jews Against the Occupation.
  • National Education Union
  • National Union of Students
  • Netpol
  • Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • Palestinian Forum in Britain (PFB)
  • People and Planet
  • Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
  • Quaker Roots
  • Quakers in Britain
  • Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers Union (RMT)
  • Sabeel-Kairos UK
  • SOS-UK (NUS climate campaign)
  • Stamp out Poverty
  • Transport Salaried Staffs Association Union (TSSA)
  • UNISON
  • Unite the Union
  • United Reformed Church
  • University and College Union (UCU)
  • War on Want
  • Western Sahara Campaign UK

Introduction to the Bill

The government is planning to table a bill that would ‘stop public bodies from making any boycott, divestment or sanctions decisions that aren’t in line with UK government foreign or economic trade policies’.

While the text of the legislation has not yet been published, government statements indicate that this would apply to institutions across the public sector, including but not limited to local councils.

This proposal is of great concern to many individuals and organisations campaigning on issues of social and climate justice, both in the UK and internationally, for the reasons outlined in the above statement.

Frequently asked questions

Why is the government introducing this legislation?

This proposal must be understood in the context of the current government bringing in some of the most repressive legislation we’ve seen in decades, such as the Policing Bill, the ‘Spy Cops’ Bill, the Nationality and Borders Bill, and the Overseas Operations Bill.

All of these laws and related policies have imposed limits on campaigners’ abilities to challenge the UK government and UK companies over illegal or unethical practices, and to participate in our fundamental rights to organise and to hold government and institutions to account.

Is this only happening in the UK?

No. At least 35 states in the US have passed similar laws, as has Germany, and similar legislation has been proposed in several other European countries.

Broadly speaking, many of these laws have targeted the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to pressure Israel to meet its obligations under international law in relation to justice for Palestinians.

Why are so many organisations from across society opposing this?

Such legislation would be completely anti-democratic, and a serious blow to our civil society. it risks blocking campaigners from seeking accountability, and from protesting when institutions and corporations are involved in violations of international law.

There are dozens of examples of similar laws in other countries being used to shut down campaigning for divestment from fossil fuels across the US, banning public bodies from procuring any services from companies who support divestment, or targeting campaigners opposed to gun and weapons manufacturers. This legislation leaves all groups campaigning for social, climate and international justice vulnerable to such government overreach in the UK.

Will this law affect my ability to boycott or make ethical investment decisions?

No! While some MP’s have made grandiose comments to the press suggesting that they will ‘outlaw Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’, the proposed legislation is aimed at public bodies’ decision making. Nobody will be criminalised for the decisions they make as private citizens while shopping or investing money. Any limits on public bodies’ abilities to act in accordance with international law and ethical principles are extremely dangerous and must be fought, but we must not fall into the trap of furthering the ‘chilling effect’ by over-stating what the government can do.

When is this legislation going to be announced?

We anticipate that plans to table this legislation are coming soon. We will update this website when we have more clarity on dates.

Share the Statement

We know from experience that this government tries to introduce and pass repressive legislation under the radar with little time for scrutiny and opposition. That’s why we need you to share our statement and tweet in support of our #RightToBoycott. 

Contact via Email at: rtb@palestinecampaign.org