The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced that UK public bodies are to be banned from imposing their own boycotts against foreign countries and territories.
Coming as part of a 2019 manifesto pledge, the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill is intended to send a message to councils and other public bodies that they “need to focus on delivering for the public.” Those organisations that break the rules introduced in the bill will face severe fines, as Ministers are able to conduct investigations into any suspected breaches.
The driving force behind the new bill is to stop businesses and organisations from being targeting through boycotts by public bodies, which could potentially lead to tension in communities. This move will also ensure that the United Kingdom is united in its foreign policy.
Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said:
“It is simply wrong that public bodies have been wating taxpayers’ time and money pursuing their own foreign policy agenda. The UK must have a consistent approach to foreign policy, set by UK Government.
“These campaigns not only undermine the UK’s foreign policy but lead to appalling antisemitic rhetoric and abuse. That is why we have taken this decisive action to stop these disruptive policies once and for all.
“My message to these organisations, is to get on with your job and focus on delivering for the public.”
A well-established sanctions policy is already in place in the UK, with an example being how organisations with Russian and Belarussian ties are being prevented from benefitting from taxpayer funding. Due to this, any already ongoing contracts that any local authorities have with such organisations can be terminated.
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