Labour Conference: Party to demand veto for Parliament on post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump's US

Exclusive: The party wants MPs to have the final say on any future trade agreement

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Sunday 24 September 2017 18:37 BST
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Donald Trump has said a UK trade deal could be ‘big and exciting’
Donald Trump has said a UK trade deal could be ‘big and exciting’ (Reuters)

Labour will push for Parliament to have the deciding say on any international trade deal – including one with Donald Trump’s US – the Government wants to sign after Brexit, The Independent can reveal.

The party will launch a drive to ensure MPs and Lords have a commanding role in shaping free trade agreements and votes that could block them if there is a danger they might damage the country.

The move comes as the Government prepares to publish its Trade Bill setting out how the UK will negotiate deals, including ones already promised by Mr Trump, Canada and even a future one with the EU.

Currently all that has to happen for the UK to ratify a trade deal agreed by the EU is for the text to be laid in Parliament for 21 days – no vote was held on the recent Ceta deal between the EU and Canada, for example.

But Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner said that when the UK writes future deals, Downing Street must cede power to shape and approve them to Parliament.

He said: “We need to know there is going to be a scrutiny process akin to the European scrutiny committee, so there is a power to hold the Government to account as well.

“We need to know that the negotiations themselves are going to be transparent, that there is going to be the involvement of Parliament at all stages.

“Ultimately we need to know that there will be a debate and vote in Parliament before any treaty comes through and, after that, there is on-going monitoring and review of our trade agreements and a clear mechanism for revising them, and ultimately if things go on and times change of withdrawing from them.”

Mr Gardiner said the row around the EU (withdrawal) Bill – with even many Tory MPs concerned about powers to change laws being granted to ministers – had shown the need to ensure the Government did not pull more power to itself and sideline Parliament.

He went on: “The Government may think that it had a fight on its hands over the EU (withdrawal) Bill over accountability.

“Well unless they produce in the white paper something that is clearly going to create an accountable, transparent process for developing trade agreements, they will have an equally big battle on their hands.”

Liam Fox rejects idea that potential reduction in meat safety is important factor in current trade negotiations

Ms May and her ministers have promised a raft of new trade deals after the UK leaves the EU, with the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and India said to be interested.

Trade deals between the EU and the US and Ceta have led to concerns that they could lower consumer standards and help deliver a greater amount of wealth into the hands of a small proportion of people, increasing inequality.

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