UK to sign post-Brexit trade deal with three countries that criminalise homosexuality

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that the UK government will sign a trade deal with three countries that criminalise homosexuality.

Brexit supporters have made much of the UK’s ability to enter trade deals following its departure from the European Union, European Single Market and Customs Union.

May announced her first planned pro-Brexit deal on a trip to South Africa this week.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (NIC BOTHMA/AFP/Getty)

The deal is with six countries across the south of Africa – Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.

Of the six countries, three – Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland – criminalise homosexuality, while a further two – Mozambique and Lesotho – have zero protections for LGBT people.

Gay sex is punishable by seven years of imprisonment in Botswana, while Namibia and Swaziland continue to have sodomy laws on the books.

Only South Africa allows same-sex unions and enshrines anti-discrimination protections for LGBT+ people.

By contrast, states must respect LGBT+ human rights as a condition of EU or Single Market membership, meaning it is legal to be gay in all 28 EU states, and all 28 have anti-discrimination laws concerning sexual orientation.

May did not reference any human rights conditions in her speech and specified that the deal was “not about extending geopolitical influence”, adding that British investors “respect ethical practices [and] comply with local laws”.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (NIC BOTHMA/AFP/Getty)

She said: “As Prime Minister of a trading nation whose success depends on global markets, I want to see strong African economies that British companies can do business with in a free and fair fashion. Whether through creating new customers for British exporters or opportunities for British investors, our integrated global economy means healthy African economies are good news for British people as well as African people.

“That’s why I’m delighted that we will today confirm plans to carry over the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement with the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique once the EU’s deal no longer applies to the UK.

“As a Prime Minister who believes both in free markets and in nations and businesses acting in line with well-established rules and principles of conduct, I want to demonstrate to young Africans that their brightest future lies in a free and thriving private sector. One driven and underpinned by transparency, high standards, the rule of law and fairness.

“Only in such circumstances can innovation truly be rewarded, the potential of individuals unleashed, and societies provided with the opportunities they want, need and deserve.”

Critics also pointed out that the deal is also just a continuation of one of the 36 existing EU free trade agreements. The UK has had no confirmation that many of the deals will roll over with months to go until Brexit.