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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Let us take the UK-Japan continuity agreement. Again, we are led to believe that this is simply a matter of two very close allies sitting down together briefly and changing the words “EU-Japan” to “UK-Japan”, as well as perhaps changing the odd comma here or there, and dotting the odd i and crossing the odd t. In practice, however, something very different appears to be taking place. Just on Tuesday, the Financial Times carried a story saying that Japanese negotiators have given Britain an ultimatum: “Do the deal with us in six weeks, or we will not be able to get it through our Parliament and there will be no continuity trade agreement in place by 31 December.”

Bear in mind that Professor Winters, in his evidence to the Committee on Tuesday 16 June, at Question 31, said in response to the probing of my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central that

“with Japan, we do not really know what the Government intend to discuss with the Japanese Government, but the analysis that we got last month was—what shall we say?—studiously unspecific.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 16 June 2020; c. 26, Q31.]

Again, when the Minister gets to his feet, it would be helpful if he gave us a little more detail on the substance of what is going on in those negotiations. I thought we were told that when we left the European Union, we would stop being a rule taker any longer, and here it appears that Japanese negotiators are telling us: “Do a deal or you don’t get your trade agreement in time.”