In March 2019, the House of Lords passed an amendment which stipulated that, following our departure from the European Union, negotiations towards a free trade agreement may not commence until the Secretary of State has laid a draft negotiating mandate before the appropriately constituted committee. This would be approved by a resolution of that committee and a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. Amendment 12 would thus require MPs and Lords to approve all post-Brexit trade deals before they could be implemented. Currently, this Amendment is due to be voted on by the House of Commons, after it has been debated.
Despite the passing of Amendment 12 in the Lords, the fundamental aim of the Trade Bill remains the continuity of current trading arrangements in which the UK is involved. A key aspect of that continuity is the maintenance of UK statutory protections. Maintaining safety and public confidence in the food UK consumers eat is one of the Government’s highest priorities. As such, imports will continue to meet all UK regulations, with any future trade agreements required to be fair for UK farmers and businesses.
The Government is determined that the Trade Bill carry out the function for which it was originally designed, namely, the application of the necessary powers for the UK to transition trade agreements that currently exist between the EU and other countries. This will enable continued access to £1.3 trillion worth of Government contracts and procurement opportunities in 47 countries. It will also seek to establish a new independent body, the Trade Remedies Authority, to defend UK businesses against unfair trading practices.
Repeatedly, it has been made clear that the UK will uphold current product standards following our departure from the EU. As such, it should be noted that the Government has always maintained its commitment to transparency and scrutiny of future UK trade agreements. The Government has also stated that following the UK’s departure from the EU, Parliament will be able to inform negotiations and play a role in the ratification of any new free trade agreement, through the process established in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.