Implementation of international trade agreements

Part of Trade Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade) 11:30 am, 25th June 2020

It is good to have you back in the Chair, Mrs Cummins. On Thursday afternoon, when you were not with us, we had one or two moments of light. The hon. Member for Stafford clearly began to feel nervous about whether the Bill was properly drafted, asking me to go into further detail about what was wrong with the Bill. The Minister helpfully confirmed that Command Papers published by his Department are not worth the paper they are written on once 12 months have passed and that there is absolutely no guarantee that the House will get either a debate or a vote on any future UK-US deal.

It is therefore a particular pleasure to have the chance to return to the subject of continuity or roll-over agreements and to speak to these amendments. As you will remember, Mrs Cummins, the Minister and his colleagues have presented the Bill as being purely about rolling over agreements already long since negotiated with the European Union. Effectively, they say, it is just a matter of changing “EU” to “UK”, putting a comma in a different place, dotting the odd i or crossing the odd t, or making some other little tweak—in practice, minor changes to deals that have already been done. Indeed, so confident was the former Secretary of State for International Trade about that, that he committed to get all 40 trade agreements with the European Union rolled over into UK-specific trade deals by March last year.

Imagine our surprise on seeing in the Bill clause 2(7), which suggests that a period of five years might be needed after implementation day, with the option to extend by another five years, to conclude those roll-over agreements. Bear in mind that we were told that deals such as the South Korea, Japan and Canada deals were going to be easy to complete and should be done by Brexit day—certainly, we were led to believe, by implementation day.