If Members of Parliament’s (MPs) International Trade Committee have their way, the Government will have to be as open and transparent as possible when negotiating trade deals after Brexit.

In its report, UK Trade Policy Transparency and Scrutiny, the Committee identifies four key principles which, it argues, the Government should abide by when developing its post-Brexit trade policy. They are:

  • giving Parliament a meaningful role in the trade policy process

  • ensuring that trade policy is both open and inclusive

  • operating from a presumption of transparency

  • formalising consultative processes.

The Committee’s recommendations arose from a desire to consider how the Government should involve not only Parliament, but also the devolved administrations, local government, the business community and civil society in trade policy development.

Available here, the report draws upon successes and failures from trade negotiations around the world and notes that the UK has an opportunity to learn from those when developing its own, unique processes.

With the UK set to begin negotiating trade agreements for the first time in more than 40 years, and agreements potentially affecting the lives of all its citizens, everyone has the right to be heard, Committee Chairman Angus Brendan MacNeil argued.

Current government plans for the transparency and scrutiny of future trade negotiations are characteristically vague and attempt to dress up poor planning as pragmatism, he said.

“Our report makes an unequivocal argument for transparency over secrecy, consultation over concealment, and parliamentary debate over simple rubber-stamping,” he claimed.

Parliament should be guaranteed a vote on the ratification of trade deals, Mr MacNeil added — and give the International Trade Committee the tools it needs to oversee and scrutinise negotiations as they progress.

The Government should also ensure that the devolved administrations have a statutory and meaningful role and that businesses and civil society representatives are involved in the consultative process, he concluded.

Last reviewed 8 January 2019