New clause 15

Part of Trade Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 4:30 pm, 25th June 2020

New clause 15 proposes a review, as we have heard, of free trade agreements every five years after entry into force. I have already drawn the Committee’s attention to the parliamentary reports that we have voluntarily published alongside every signed continuity agreement, outlining any significant differences between the signed agreement and the underlying EU agreement. I confirm that we will continue to do so for the remaining continuity agreements.

We have a meaningful and constant dialogue with several Committees in Parliament. Those may provide a more appropriate forum for reviews of our trade agreements and an assessment of the UK’s wider trade environment and relationships. We are keen for Parliament to make its voice heard during the negotiation of our continuity programme in a way that is proportionate and productive. I also draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that six signed continuity agreements have been subject to debate in Parliament without a single one carrying a motion of regret.

As I have said many times before, our objectives for the trade continuity programme are to replicate the effects of existing EU trade agreements, which have all been subject to comprehensive scrutiny at EU level. Given that scrutiny, the parliamentary reports we have committed to publishing and the other constraints contained within the Bill, we do not believe that an additional report in the future would be an efficient use of parliamentary time. Additionally, I argue that looking at each agreement in isolation from the wider trading situation of the UK at an arbitrary point in time risks rendering any such report at best incomplete and at worst meaningless.

As a Department, we have an ongoing obligation to provide meaningful and timely information to the public, businesses and other key stakeholders on our assessment of the UK’s trading relationships. Statutory obligations anchored in specific agreements in the manner proposed by the new clause could in fact act as a constraint to the Department providing that sort of information in a timely and impactful way. As such, I ask the hon. Member to withdraw his new clause.