Liam Fox ‘acting like 18th century monarch’ as plans for trade deals unveiled

By agency reporter
March 4, 2019

The campaign group Global Justice Now has condemned the Department for International Trade's proposals for the scrutiny of trade deals after Brexit. 

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now said: “Liam Fox’s plans for signing post-Brexit trade deals with countries like the USA are an insult to parliament and the public. They give our MPs significantly less power over trade deals than our MEPs currently enjoy over European trade deals. They don’t allow parliament the ability to properly scrutinise, guide, or stop trade deals. Far from befitting a minister in a democratic country, the powers which Fox’s plans would give him would be more appropriate for a monarch 300 years ago.

“There is a massive democratic black hole at the heart of Brexit.This is a problem for all of us, because trade deals today can affect our food standards, our public services, our ability to regulate big finance and much besides. We cannot allow Liam Fox to trade away our democratic standards behind closed doors, with MPs having no ability to stop him.”

Last month, the House of Lords refused to move the Trade Bill forward until an adequate process was set out for detailing how parliament could oversee post-Brexit trade policy.

But the group says Fox has put almost nothing new in place to replace the very significant scrutiny currently undertaken by MEPs.    

Under these proposals:

  • MPs would not be able to vote on the government’s trade objectives and would be given no powers to change a government’s negotiating strategy.
  • Trade deals would be negotiated under royal prerogative, and MPs would not be able to stop a trade deal, or even have the right to debate a trade deal. Even where the government deigned to give MPs a debate, the trade deal would be implemented before this debate had taken place.
  • MPs would have no right to see negotiating texts, though such texts might be granted to a special committee if the government agreed.
  • The rights given to devolved governments would amount to a regular discussion, with no further powers or rights.
  • No further legislation will be passed to give parliament a proper role in holding the government to account for trade policy.

The Trade Bill is tabled to return to the House of Lords for Report Stage on Wednesday 6 March 2019.

* Read Processes for making free trade agreements once the UK has left the EU here

* Global Justice Now


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