Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:17 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Newby Lord Newby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 3:17 pm, 21st January 2019

He must have a lot of sympathy with them. The truth is that it was always unrealistic to expect these deals to be in place by 29 March because most of the EU’s free trade partners will want big UK concessions, particularly on issues such as food imports, requiring long and difficult negotiations that are likely to last several years. The Government sought to deny this but the truth is now there for everyone to see.

The other thing that might reasonably have happened is that the Government might have been clearer about their expected trade policy, how it might work and how they might bring it to Parliament. What would their red lines be? What processes would they follow to get future deals discussed and approved by this Parliament and the devolved assemblies? We still have no clue. In the circumstances, it is completely reasonable for this House to decline to proceed beyond Committee with the Bill. Indeed, it could be argued that we should not even proceed to Committee at all, but the Motion before us allows us to make some progress on the Bill while giving notice to the Government that they really must clarify their intentions if the Bill is to complete its passage through the House.

It will no doubt be argued that this amendment is unprecedented. Perhaps it is but, as we are seeing in the Commons, at a time when the Government have all but collapsed, it is inevitable that Parliament should assert its control over proceedings. That is what the amendment seeks to do, and it has the support of these Benches.