MPs will only be allowed to debate a controversial free trade deal between the European Union and Canada after it has already been signed, the Government has said.
Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, said in a letter to Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee that the “parliamentary timetable” was such that a debate could not reasonable be scheduled before he signed the agreement.
The denial of parliamentary scrutiny ahead of the signing comes as the Government sidelines parliament in Brexit negotiations. Theresa May has refused to grant MPs a vote on the opening terms of negotiations with the EU.
Last week the regional parliament of the Belgian region Wallonia refused to allow the Belgian premier to sign the Ceta (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) deal. Britain’s parliament will however have no such veto over the plan – which campaigners say is the “little brother” of the controversial TTIP agreement being negotiated with the US.
They say it will allow corporations to sue governments who impose policies that harm their profits, give corporations a great role in shaping their own regulations and lock in the privatisation of public services.
The Government says the deal will reduce barriers to trade and increase prosperity.
Spain’s foreign minister said earlier this week that Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU would likely most closely resemble Ceta.
Mr Fox, who resigned in disgrace from the post of Defence Secretary under the 2010 Coalition government but was reappointed as Trade Secretary by Theresa May this year, intends to sign the agreement at an EU-Canada summit on 27 October. He will confirm his intention to sign it at a meeting of European ministers on Tuesday.
Britain’s backing for the plan comes despite it leaving the EU.
“The Government has always been willing to engage with Parliament on trade policy, and I appreciate the need for transparency and scrutiny,” Mr Fox said in a letter to the committee dated earlier this month.
“In this case, the parliamentary timetable is such that it would be difficult to schedule a debate ahead of the 18 October extraordinary Council on Foreign Affairs (Trade) where member states will be required to confirm their agreement to sign Ceta.
The 6 reasons why we should be scared of TTIP
The 6 reasons why we should be scared of TTIP
1/6 The NHS
Public services, especially the NHS, are in the firing line. One of the main aims of TTIP is to open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies. This could essentially mean the privatisation of the NHS. The European Commission has claimed that public services will be kept out of TTIP. However, according to the Huffington Post, the UK Trade Minister Lord Livingston has admitted that talks about the NHS were still on the table
2/6 Food and environmental safety
TTIP’s ‘regulatory convergence’ agenda will seek to bring EU standards on food safety and the environment closer to those of the US. But US regulations are much less strict, with 70 per cent of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now containing genetically modified ingredients. By contrast, the EU allows virtually no GM foods. The US also has far laxer restrictions on the use of pesticides. It also uses growth hormones in its beef which are restricted in Europe due to links to cancer. US farmers have tried to have these restrictions lifted repeatedly in the past through the World Trade Organisation and it is likely that they will use TTIP to do so again
3/6 Banking regulations
TTIP cuts both ways. The UK, under the influence of the all-powerful City of London, is thought to be seeking a loosening of US banking regulations. America’s financial rules are tougher than ours. They were put into place after the financial crisis to directly curb the powers of bankers and avoid a similar crisis happening again. TTIP, it is feared, will remove those restrictions, effectively handing all those powers back to the bankers
Remember ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)? It was thrown out by a massive majority in the European Parliament in 2012 after a huge public backlash against what was rightly seen as an attack on individual privacy where internet service providers would be required to monitor people’s online activity. Well, it’s feared that TTIP could be bringing back ACTA’s central elements, proving that if the democratic approach doesn’t work, there’s always the back door. An easing of data privacy laws and a restriction of public access to pharmaceutical companies’ clinical trials are also thought to be on the cards
The EU has admitted that TTIP will probably cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower. It has even advised EU members to draw on European support funds to compensate for the expected unemployment. Examples from other similar bi-lateral trade agreements around the world support the case for job losses. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico caused the loss of one million US jobs over 12 years, instead of the hundreds of thousands of extra that were promised
Dave Thompson/Getty Images
TTIP’s biggest threat to society is its inherent assault on democracy. One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments
“I would, however, certainly welcome the opportunity for a debate ahead of the provisional application of Ceta, which is expected early next year.”
In a report, the European Scrutiny Committee said: “The committee requested an early debate of this legally and politically important trade deal ahead of signature, provisional application and conclusion.
“Nonetheless, we acknowledge the time constraints of scheduling a debate before signature given that there were only just over two sitting weeks between our recommendation and the FAC.
“Under these circumstances, the Committee agrees to a conditional scrutiny waiver for signature only.”
The committee’s members said the minister should report back to the Commons to explain what happened at the foreign affairs meeting, and also schedule a debate “urgently” so that MPs could actually consider the deal before it was implemented next year.Reuse content