EU election manifestos 2019: what do they say about corporate accountability?

We examined the manifestos of UK political parties’ contesting the European elections, to be held in the UK on 23 May 2019. What do they say about the protection of human rights and the environment with regard to the global operations of UK companies?

Conservative Party

No manifesto.

Conservative MEPs sit in the European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) group in the European Parliament. Read their manifesto here.

Labour Party

Labour’s manifesto lists among their achievements in Europe “leading the fight against the excesses of the few, delivering a cap on bankers’ bonuses and supporting regulation to curb casino capitalism.”

They say they have worked hard to “balance the need to make our country safer, with the duty to protect and promote our human rights.” They pledge to “continue to lead efforts for a new comprehensive plan to deliver rights and protections” for workers in European law.

The manifesto emphasises the regulation of trade. The party commits to “only support trade deals that promote human rights, consumer standards, environmental protections, and rights at work. Labour will protect our public services, like the NHS, from being opened up to further privatisation. Trade policy should be used to raise standards across the world, not to engage in a race to the bottom.”

They also state support for the regulation of corporations with regard to tax avoidance: “Labour will support EU wide efforts to close the loopholes, increase transparency, and take action on the tax havens that operate in Europe or with the support of EU countries.”

Labour MEPs sit in the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament. Read about their priorities here.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto states that “the EU can clamp down on abuses by global corporations in a way that Britain cannot do on its own, for example in tackling tax avoidance and misuse of personal data.”

Under climate commitments, they state that they will build on the EU’s leadership in promoting resource efficiency and the protection of oceans and nature. Importantly, they pledge to “introduce a general duty of care for the environment and human rights for companies and public sector agencies.”

They also commit to “an ambitious EU-wide action plan on deforestation” and to “secure trade deals that promote high standards of environmental protection, working conditions, animal welfare and food safety.”

Liberal Democrat MEPs sit in the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group in the European Parliament. Read their manifesto here.

Green Party

The Green Party’s manifesto includes commitments to work towards an effective and independent EU authority to supervise, control and limit the market power of big corporations.”

On corruption, they say “we need much stronger controls on lobbying of all EU institutions and we need to end the revolving door so that powerful politicians cannot move straight into lobbying for corporations.”

The manifesto pledges that “industrial deregulation and trade agreements must not be allowed to undermine or stand in the way of environmental and social progress.” The Green Party stand against the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in free trade agreements.

They list as achievements that “firms involved in the extraction and trade of conflict minerals will be obliged to check whether their supply chain has links to armed conflicts and human rights abuses,” and that “the Parliament will negotiate for compulsory criteria on labour and environmental standards in EU Trade Agreements, paving the way for a UN binding instrument on business and human rights.”

They state that “when human rights and the environment are seriously threatened, Europe has to be able to defend its values by using its foreign policy instruments comprehensively. A comprehensive concept of human security will only thrive in an environment of multilateralism, of international justice, rule of law and the protection of human rights.”

Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP)

The SNP’s manifesto states that “it is essential that fundamental rights across Europe are protected.”

They pledge to “continue to support fairer tax principles and oppose the continuing tax privileges granted to large multinational corporations and high-wealth individuals.”

On trade, they state that they “believe in defending a robust, fair, open and rules-based trading system,” including “upholding high standards of consumer protection, social rights and environmental rules.”

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru’s manifesto lists among their achievements having “built a coalition in the Parliament against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” which threatened jobs and the environment, and support for “tighter controls against money laundering”.

They pledge to put the society and environment first in trade deals: “Plaid Cymru is part of the European fair-trade movement that aims to put human and social rights and the environment ahead of the interests of big businesses. Outside the EU, Wales would be much more vulnerable to harmful trade deals. All trade agreements must be compatible with the targets of the Paris Agreement through legally binding provisions.”

They also commit to “continue to work with other parties at the EU to develop tax regimes that do not continue to privilege large multinational corporations and wealthy individuals […] the scale of the EU means that it is able to take on the largest, multinational corporations, something which would be very difficult for the UK alone.”

On the protection of rights, they support the rights of migrant workers, pledge to “combat all forms of labour exploitation and forced labour in Europe” and “support the European Convention on Human Rights that underpins our justice system.”

The Green Party, SNP and Plaid Cymru MEPs sit in the Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA) group in the European Parliament. Read their manifesto here.

Change UK

Change UK’s manifesto does not mention human rights or the regulation of corporations specifically. They say they “seek the development by the EU of new international institutions to meet modern global challenges, including corporate tax avoidance and evasion; internet safety; and climate change.”

UK Independence Party (UKIP)

The UKIP manifesto is very brief. It does not mention policies on corporate accountability and states that “UKIP MEPs will vote against all EU legislation on the basis that the EU has no legitimate right to legislate over the British people.”

UKIP MEPs sit in the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group in the European Parliament. Read about their priorities here.

Brexit Party

No manifesto.

Brexit party MEPs would sit in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group in the European Parliament. Read about their priorities here.