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Backbench Business — Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Part of National Insurance (Renaming) – in the House of Commons at 3:16 pm on 25th February 2014.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Minister without Portfolio 3:16 pm, 25th February 2014

The answer to that is yes, there is a danger. I can assure my hon. Friend that we will do our best to minimise it, as will the commission in Washington. It would be most unfortunate if that were to happen.

That brings me to the question of transparency. No one is hostile to the idea of being transparent. The EU is a union of 28 nation states and Governments, all of whom have their own Parliament, and the desire to share information among Parliaments and the public is considerable. There is a dilemma, however, in that there is a conflict between that arrangement and the negotiating positions. There is no doubt that our American friends negotiate very hard indeed. They are pretty hard-nosed people when it comes to negotiating the detail, and we cannot send our negotiators into the chamber with all their bottom lines, their ambitions and the mandates they have received from their member states revealed. We need to get that balance right, but the instinct of Commissioner de Gucht and Commissioner Barnier—and certainly of the British Government—is to be as forthcoming as possible, so long as we are not simply feeding information to lobbies that want to try to put a spoke in the wheels. I entirely understand that getting public support—and, eventually, the smooth ratification of this deal—will depend on whether we have been sufficiently transparent with all the lobbies.