Last reviewed 7 November 2019

Parliament’s International Trade Committee has launched an inquiry into the implications of the new Withdrawal Agreement, Political Declaration and Withdrawal Agreement Bill with regard to UK trade with non-EU countries.

Before deciding to launch a General Election, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had seen agreement in the House of Commons to give his Withdrawal Agreement Bill a Second Reading.

It has already come under fire from the leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage, as being likely to make trade deals with non-EU countries, and particularly the United States, more difficult.

The Committee will question trade policy experts, including Professor Alan Winters, Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex, together with the chief executive of Make UK: the Manufacturers’ Organisation.

Issues to be covered include the impact on future UK trade policy of changes to the Agreement’s Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol. The Committee is likely to consider the effect that customs changes could have on future UK trade agreements and Northern Ireland businesses trading internationally, and what advice and support the Government should provide to minimise negative impacts on existing supply chains.

It is also likely to focus on the fact that the Agreement, unlike the one negotiated by Theresa May, does not include ‘level playing field’ commitments on workers’ rights and environmental standards.

Such commitments could be key demands from the EU when negotiating a post-Brexit trading relationship with the UK, which may, as Mr Farage pointed out, come into conflict with the demands of the Government’s other proposed post-Brexit trading partners such as the United States.