Scrutiny of Trade Agreements

Thank you for contacting me about the scrutiny of trade agreements.

I absolutely understand the need for scrutiny of trade agreements as we leave the European Union. It is vital that Parliament, the devolved administrations, businesses, and the public from every part of the UK, have the opportunity to contribute to our country’s trade policy. That is why I welcome the announcement of comprehensive measures to ensure that all future trade agreements are negotiated in a transparent and inclusive way.

Public consultations will run for 14 weeks ahead of any negotiations for new trade agreements commencing, ensuring that any individual or organisation across the UK can have their say over the negotiating aims. The Government will publish an ‘Outline Approach’, detailing the high-level objectives and scope before any negotiations begin. As negotiations progress, Parliament will be closely involved through regular ministerial statements and updates to the International Trade Committee.

Once negotiations are concluded, any final trade agreement will need to be ratified by Parliament, under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. As part of this process, the treaty will be laid before Parliament, alongside an Explanatory Memorandum summarising the content of each trade agreement. An impact assessment will also be published at the appropriate juncture.

In order to implement any new trade agreement, in cases which require changes to domestic legislation and where there are no existing powers to achieve this, the Government will bring forward a bespoke piece of primary legislation. Parliament will scrutinise this new legislation in the same way that all other primary legislation is scrutinised.

As well as new trade agreements, continuity in our country’s existing trade relationships will be provided by transitioning existing EU trade agreements to which we are party into UK law, on the closest possible terms as each original agreement. While these existing agreements have already been through the relevant scrutiny processes in Parliament when they were implemented by the EU, the Government has announced measures to ensure parliamentary scrutiny of the process of transitioning these agreements. These measures include requiring a report to be laid before Parliament detailing the changes made to each of the transitioned agreements, providing greater transparency over the process.

Recognising the interaction between trade policy and devolved policy areas, the Government will work closely with the devolved administrations to deliver a future trade policy which works for the whole of the UK. As part of this, a series of collaborative policy roundtables with the devolved administrations are being conducted.

I am confident that these measures will ensure that both Parliament and the public have the opportunity to have their say over the future of our country’s trade policy.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Craig Whittaker MP

August 2018