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Briefing: The Tory "anti-Boycott" bill

BRIEFING: The Tory “Anti-Boycott” Bill

Monday 19th June was the first reading of the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill - known as the “anti-Boycott” bill in Parliament.

This proposed legislation by Conservatives looks to prevent public bodies across the UK from taking ethical decisions over their investments and aims to restrict authorities and local people the freedom to choose non-violent divestments and boycotts as a response to human rights and environmental violations.

The dangerous “anti-Boycott” bill looks to break the historic and bipartisan principles of freedom - allowing our public bodies and local people to choose for themselves where their money goes. It is being vehemently opposed by trade unions (including Unite, Unison, CWU, ASLEF, CWU, NEU), environmental groups (including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, People and Planet), and human rights organisations in Britain and around the world.

Palestine and Islamophobia

This Tory “anti-Boycott” bill comes in the context of attacks on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and specifically mentions occupied Palestinian territories.

For decades, the BDS movement has been an important peaceful campaign against the illegal occupation of Palestine and the right of self determination of Muslim communities. Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, one of the key components of campaigns in the UK, is the third holiest site in Islam.

Attempts to restrict and/or criminalise Muslims in the UK using peaceful and historic routes in local authorities and public bodies to campaign for self determination is undoubtedly a new step in Islamophobia.

The Palestinian Mission to the UK - who Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer recently met with ( - has called all UK political parties and civil society organisations to ‘oppose this dangerous attempt to reward serial violators of human rights and international law, to undermine freedom of expression and to penalise human rights defenders.’ (

Statement by over 68 Civil Society groups

“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 include: Unison, Unite, UCU, NEU, ASLEF Union, Bakers and Allied Workers Union, CWU, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace UK and many more.

The Labour Muslim Network

The Labour Muslim Network is calling on all MPs to oppose this Tory bill in the strongest possible terms. This proposed legislation marks one of the most dangerous attacks on the freedom of local people and authorities in decades, and is certainly a new face in the growing crisis of Islamophobia in Britain.

* For any more information contact the LMN team at

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