The Government’s stated intention in its Trade Bill is to allow the UK to pursue an independent trade policy when we leave the European Union. However, I agree with you that we need to guarantee meaningful parliamentary scrutiny of future UK trade deals. I am concerned that the Government’s approach, as set out in the Trade Bill and in a White Paper published in October, gives little acknowledgement of the need for due process in Parliament and no clarity on how trade deals will be scrutinised. Instead it proposes to roll over existing EU trade deals even when they have not been ratified and to introduce future deals through a procedure that I believe is undemocratic.
I do not believe that negotiating, signing and ratifying international treaties should be the exclusive preserve of the Government, operating without checks and balances or democratic oversight. In addition to a debate and vote on future agreements, we need a new House of Commons committee with the power to scrutinise treaties before the Government agrees to them. MPs should have the power to debate, amend and approve mandates before negotiations start; negotiations should be informed by an impact assessment of any potential deal; and MPs should have access to negotiating texts as they are formulated.
At the June 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto that promised to ensure proper transparency and parliamentary scrutiny of all future trade and investment deals. I can therefore assure you that I will be writing to the Secretary of State for International Trade in order to make the points that you have highlighted. I will pass on to you any response I receive.
As you know I have signed Early Day Motions 128 and 166 and along with my Labour colleagues I will continue to press the Government on this problem.