At the June 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto that promised to ensure proper transparency and parliamentary scrutiny of all future trade and investment deals. I do not believe that negotiating, signing and ratifying international treaties should be the exclusive preserve of the Government, operating without checks and balances or democratic oversight.
The government intends to introduce a Trade Bill in this Parliament to allow the UK to pursue an independent trade policy when we leave the European Union. The independent Institute for Government (IfG) has called for the government to use this Bill to guarantee Parliament a debate and vote on any future trade deals. I agree with the IfG.
In addition to a debate and vote on future agreements, we need to grant the House of Commons International Trade Committee the power to scrutinise treaties before the government agrees to them. MPs should have the power to debate, amend and approve mandates before negotiations start; negotiations should be informed by an impact assessment of any potential deal; and MPs should have access to negotiating texts as they are formulated. All documents relating to trade negotiations should be listed on the parliamentary website, as they are in other European parliaments. It is also vital that there is timely and meaningful engagement with the devolved administrations and with civil society on future UK trade and investment agreements.
I will continue to push for greater transparency in trade policy and full parliamentary scrutiny of future trade deals.