Trade Bill: Fox concessions fail to give MPs a ‘meaningful say’ over post-Brexit trade deals
Date: 16 July 2018
• MPs will not get a vote on future trade deals
• Devolved administrations remain shut out
• Limited transparency measures ‘step forward but not enough’
Campaign groups Global Justice Now and War on Want have condemned Liam Fox’s transparency concessions on the Trade Bill ahead of tomorrow’s Third Reading as inadequate, following Liam Fox’s statement to parliament this afternoon.
In the statement Fox announced a set of concessions on transparency, focused around saying that the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 is all that is needed to provide democratic scrutiny at the end of a trade deal. It gives MPs 21 days to object to a deal, but neglects to give them a way of objecting. By contrast MEPs in Europe and the US Congress get an automatic vote.
Alex Scrivener, campaigner at Global Justice Now, said:
“Today, Liam Fox made a last gasp attempt to head off calls for real trade democracy. But no one should be fooled. His proposals are just window-dressing for the status quo that will give Fox almost absolute power over trade policy after Brexit.
“The fact that the government has been forced to make this statement is a testament to everyone who has taken action in the trade democracy campaign. The trade secretary has been forced to acknowledge that democratic scrutiny and oversight are essential for a modern trade policy. Unfortunately, he has failed to deliver it.
“For parliament to have meaningful oversight of trade deals, MPs need a guaranteed vote on the final deal. Without this, the rest can easily just become window dressing. Our MPs need the same level of ‘hard power’ as our major trading partners like the EU and US, where parliamentarians get an automatic vote.
“This statement contains nothing of substance for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and is highly disappointing on that front. We know what such deals can mean for different regions and the extent to which they can affect devolved responsibilities. It is not acceptable that no real commitments have been made on this.”
Jean Blaylock, campaigner at War on Want, said:
“Hundreds of thousands of people have demanded trade democracy after Brexit, but today’s concessions by Liam Fox fall well short of taking back control.
“It’s a victory for people power that the government have been forced to agree that they need to set out their ambitions before starting a new round of trade talks, including undertaking scoping assessments, public consultations and to publish impact assessments. But the government must now ensure these aren’t hollow commitments by moving beyond their current lop sided assessments which focus purely on the impact for exporters, whilst ignoring wider economic impacts, social, environmental, gender and regional impacts and the effect on workers’ rights.
“The government has inched towards understanding that ‘taking back control’ requires scrutiny and for parliament to be kept informed. But the government must now step up and deliver a stronger commitment to transparency. We know from previous negotiations that ‘updates’ can mean virtually nothing but spin. As a minimum MPs must be able to see negotiating texts.
“We do welcome the commitment to give MPs power over implementing legislation. However this is limited in reality as many of the effects of a trade deal do not require implementing legislation. For instance, ISDS or corporate courts, which were extremely controversial in failed negotiations between the EU and US do not require any implementing legislation.”
The organisations are backing Amendment NC3 to the Trade Bill, tabled by Caroline Lucas MP.