Topical Questions

Part of International Trade – in the House of Commons on 14th March 2019.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

One of our most distinguished former diplomats, the noble Lord Kerr, spoke last week, during the passage of the Trade Bill in another place, of the value of having a mandate as a negotiator. He said:

“Having negotiated against Americans, I know that it greatly strengthens their hand to be able to say, “Here is the proof that I cannot give you what you want, because Congress would turn it down”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 6 March 2019;
Vol. 796, c. 671.]

Recently the US trade representative published the negotiating mandate for a US-UK trade deal—no concern about commercial confidentiality here, just openly and transparently setting out all the objectives they have for penetrating UK markets, with American healthcare and agribusiness to the fore. In the same week, the Secretary of State published his Command Paper. It is against mandates. Indeed, the Government tried unsuccessfully to defeat Lord Kerr and others who supported Lord Balmacara’s amendment. What does the Secretary of State know about negotiations that Lord Kerr does not, and will the Government try to reverse their lordships’ decision when the Bill returns to the Commons?