All 21 contributions to the Trade Bill 2017-19

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Tue 7th Nov 2017
Points of Order
Commons Chamber

1st reading: House of Commons
Tue 23rd Jan 2018
Trade Bill (First sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Tue 23rd Jan 2018
Trade Bill (Second sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
Thu 25th Jan 2018
Trade Bill (Third sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 3rd sitting: House of Commons
Thu 25th Jan 2018
Trade Bill (Fourth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 30th Jan 2018
Trade Bill (Fifth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 30th Jan 2018
Trade Bill (Sixth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 30th Jan 2018
Trade Bill (Seventh sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons
Thu 1st Feb 2018
Trade Bill (Eighth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 8th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 17th Jul 2018
Trade Bill
Commons Chamber

3rd reading: House of Commons & Report stage: House of Commons
Wed 18th Jul 2018
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

1st reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 11th Sep 2018
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 21st Jan 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 1st sitting (Hansarad): House of Lords
Wed 23rd Jan 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 23rd Jan 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Wed 30th Jan 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 30th Jan 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Mon 4th Feb 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 6th Mar 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Wed 13th Mar 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 20th Mar 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords

Points of Order

1st reading: House of Commons
Tuesday 7th November 2017

(6 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2017-19 Read Hansard Text
15:21
Ian Murray Portrait Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Foreign Secretary has come to the House this afternoon to provide a statement clarifying the comments he made to the Foreign Affairs Committee last week. He said in his statement—my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) has already read this out: “My point was that I disagreed with the Iranian view that training journalists was a crime, not that I lent any credence to Iranian allegations that Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe had been engaged in such activity.” The transcript from the Committee says:

“When we look at what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it”.

Those two statements are inaccurate and contradictory.

In addition, Madam Deputy Speaker, could you give me some advice? The Foreign Secretary accused me of performing on the Foreign Affairs Committee with “glassy indifference”—I think those were the words he used. May I just say to the Foreign Secretary, if he does not like me asking questions about Iran and US sanctions, that my expression was one of incredulity at his incompetence at answering the questions and not glassy indifference?

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. On his first point, as the House knows, it is not for me to opine on this matter. We have had quite a considerable time this afternoon during which these questions have been put to the Foreign Secretary, and the Foreign Secretary has now answered those questions. If there is a difference of opinion, that is in the nature of political debate and not a matter for the Chair.

On the second point, the hon. Gentleman has put a description rather different from the one that the Foreign Secretary gave of him. Once again, that is a matter of opinion, and the two opinions have been expressed. It is not for me to rule which one is correct.

Stephen Gethins Portrait Stephen Gethins (North East Fife) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Earlier today, during the urgent question on the Brexit sectoral analysis, the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray), who is aware that I was going to make this point of order, said, quite rightly, that the Secretary of State for Scotland had said at Scotland Office questions that the sectoral analysis of the impact on the economy of Scotland existed and had been shared with the Scottish Government. My colleagues in the Scottish Government had not, and have not, seen such analysis despite repeated requests. Madam Deputy Speaker, can you give us some advice on how we can correct the record?

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, but, once again, it is not a matter for the Chair. He asks for my advice on correcting the record, and I think that he has just put his issue on the record. It will be noted, and I am quite sure that those on the Treasury Bench will note it.

Bill Presented

Trade Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Liam Fox, supported by the Prime Minister, Secretary Boris Johnson Secretary David Davis, Secretary David Mundell, Secretary Alun Cairns, Secretary James Brokenshire, Secretary Michael Gove, Secretary Priti Patel and Greg Hands, presented a Bill to make provision about the implementation of international trade agreements; to make provision establishing the Trade Remedies Authority and conferring functions on it; and to make provision about the collection and disclosure of information relating to trade.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Monday 13 November, and to be printed (Bill 122) with explanatory notes (Bill 122-EN).

Trade Bill (First sitting)

Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 23rd January 2018

(6 years, 5 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2017-19 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 23 January 2018 - (23 Jan 2018)
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairs: † Philip Davies, Joan Ryan
† Badenoch, Mrs Kemi (Saffron Walden) (Con)
Bardell, Hannah (Livingston) (SNP)
† Brown, Alan (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
† Cummins, Judith (Bradford South) (Lab)
† Esterson, Bill (Sefton Central) (Lab)
† Gardiner, Barry (Brent North) (Lab)
† Hands, Greg (Minister for Trade Policy)
† Hughes, Eddie (Walsall North) (Con)
† Keegan, Gillian (Chichester) (Con)
† McMorrin, Anna (Cardiff North) (Lab)
† Prisk, Mr Mark (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)
† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)
† Rashid, Faisal (Warrington South) (Lab)
† Smith, Nick (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
† Stewart, Iain (Milton Keynes South) (Con)
† Vickers, Martin (Cleethorpes) (Con)
† Western, Matt (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
† Whittaker, Craig (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
† Wood, Mike (Dudley South) (Con)
Kenneth Fox, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Witnesses
Nick Dearden, Director, Global Justice Now
Nick Ashton-Hart, Trade Policy Consultant and Associate Fellow, Geneva Centre for Security Policy
Christopher Howarth, Senior Researcher, House of Commons (formerly a senior political analyst at Open Europe)
James Ashton-Bell, Head of Trade and Investment, CBI
Chris Southworth, Secretary General, International Chamber of Commerce UK
Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary, Unite the Union
Martin McTague, National Policy Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses
Public Bill Committee
Tuesday 23 January 2018
(Morning)
[Philip Davies in the Chair]
Trade Bill
09:25
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Before we begin, I have a few preliminary points to make. Please switch electronic devices to silent. Tea and coffee are not allowed during sittings. We will first consider the programme motion on the amendment paper. We will then consider a motion to enable the reporting of written evidence for publication and a motion to allow us to deliberate in private about our questions before the oral evidence sessions. In view of the limited time available, I hope we can take those matters without too much debate or delay.

I first call the Minister to move the programme motion, which was decided by the Programming Sub-Committee yesterday.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That—

(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 23 January) meet—

(a) at 2.00 pm on Tuesday 23 January;

(b) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 25 January;

(c) at 9.25 am, 2.00 pm and 5.30 pm on Tuesday 30 January;

(d) at 11.30 am on Thursday 1 February.

(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table:

Table

Date

Time

Witness

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

10.25 am

Global Justice Now; Computer and Communications Industry Association; Christopher Howarth, former Senior Political Analyst, Open Europe

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

11.25 am

CBI; International Chambers of Commerce UK; Unite the Union; FSB

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

2.45 pm

Dr Lorands Bartels, University of Cambridge; Dr Roiger Hestermeyer, King’s College London; Hansard Society Jude Kirton Darling MEP

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

3.30 pm

George Peretz QC, Monckton Chambers; Professor Alan Winters, UK Trade Policy Observatory; Law Society Scotland

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

4.15 pm

British Ceramic Confederation; UK Steel Manufacturing Trade Remedies Alliance; British Chambers of Commerce

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

5.00 pm

UK Finance; British Retail Consortium Standard Chartered Bank

Thursday 25 January

Until no later than

12.00 pm

Devro plc; Scotch Whisky Association Food Standards Scotland

Thursday 25 January

Until no later than

1.00 pm

Business for Scotland; British Furniture Association Hologic



(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 3; Schedules 1 to 3; Clauses 4 and 5; Schedule 4; Clauses 6 to 12; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;

(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 2.00 pm on Thursday 1 February. —(Greg Hands.)

Manuscript amendment made: In the table on page 2 of the amendment paper, in the first entry for Tuesday 23 January, leave out

“Computer and Communications Industry Association”

and insert

“Nick Ashton-Hart, Trade Policy Consultant and Associate Fellow, Geneva Centre for Security Policy”.—(Greg Hands.)

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That—

(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 23 January) meet—

(a) at 2.00 pm on Tuesday 23 January;

(b) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 25 January;

(c) at 9.25 am, 2.00 pm and 5.30 pm on Tuesday 30 January;

(d) at 11.30 am on Thursday 1 February.

(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table:

Table

Date

Time

Witness

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

10.25 am

Global Justice Now; Nick Ashton-Hart, Trade Policy Consultant and Associate Fellow, Geneva Centre for Security Policy; Christopher Howarth, former Senior Political Analyst, Open Europe

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

11.25 am

CBI; International Chambers of Commerce UK; Unite the Union; FSB

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

2.45 pm

Dr Lorands Bartels, University of Cambridge; Dr Roiger Hestermeyer, King’s College London; Hansard Society Jude Kirton Darling MEP

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

3.30 pm

George Peretz QC, Monckton Chambers; Professor Alan Winters, UK Trade Policy Observatory; Law Society Scotland

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

4.15 pm

British Ceramic Confederation; UK Steel Manufacturing Trade Remedies Alliance; British Chambers of Commerce

Tuesday 23 January

Until no later than

5.00 pm

UK Finance; British Retail Consortium Standard Chartered Bank

Thursday 25 January

Until no later than

12.00 pm

Devro plc; Scotch Whisky Association Food Standards Scotland

Thursday 25 January

Until no later than

1.00 pm

Business for Scotland; British Furniture Association Hologic



(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 3; Schedules 1 to 3; Clauses 4 and 5; Schedule 4; Clauses 6 to 12; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;

(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 2.00 pm on Thursday 1 February.

Resolved,

That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Greg Hands.)

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Copies of written evidence that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room.

Resolved,

That, at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to be heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—(Greg Hands.)

09:27
The Committee deliberated in private.
Examination of Witnesses
Nick Dearden, Nick Ashton-Hart and Christopher Howarth gave evidence.
09:30
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Before we start our formal session, I invite members of the Committee to declare any relevant interests.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am trade envoy to the Nordic and Baltic nations, and to Brazil.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Q Thank you. We will now hear oral evidence from the witnesses. Before calling the first Member, I remind the Committee that questions should be limited to matters within the scope of the Bill, and we must stick to the timings in the programme motion that have been agreed. For this session, we have until 10.25 am at the latest.

Will the witnesses please introduce themselves for the record?

Nick Dearden: I am Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now.

Nick Ashton-Hart: I am Nick Ashton-Hart from the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

Christopher Howarth: I am Christopher Howarth, former senior political analyst at Open Europe, and now senior researcher in the House of Commons.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Nick Ashton-Hart, how easy will it be to simply roll over and replicate the existing trade agreements that we have through the EU? In your view, does the Bill make provision for appropriate levels of consultation, parliamentary scrutiny and accountability?

Nick Ashton-Hart: Thank you for inviting me—this is a first for me. To answer the first question, it depends very much on whether it is in the interests of the counterparties to those agreements to roll them over without modification. Since those agreements were created for a number of member states other than just us, those partner countries will go through a process of evaluating the net trade benefit to them of applying those terms to us alone. Where they have an interest in changing the terms to their benefit, they will seek to do so, because that is what Trade Ministries do—they seek economic benefit for their country, and they expect you to seek it for yours. Unless the trade benefits for them are exactly the same for us alone as they are for 28 other countries, they are going to ask for changes in their interests.

If the shoe were on the other foot, I suspect we can all imagine that it would be hard for our Trade Ministry officials to come to you all and say, “Well, we have just copied an agreement with a large trading bloc for one country’s benefit because it is in a hurry.” I suspect we will find that this will take some time—trade agreements always do.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Before anyone else answers, may I ask Members and witnesses to speak up so that we get everything on the record? That would be perfect. Sorry—the acoustics in this room are terrible.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Perhaps Nick Dearden could pick up the same topic and, in light of what Nick Ashton-Hart has said, comment on the use of Henry VIII powers within the Bill.

Nick Dearden: We are really concerned about the lack of scrutiny and accountability in the Bill. Global Justice Now, and a number of other organisations, worked on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership for a long time. We had some concerns about that agreement—not with the potential tariff areas, but with the non-tariff areas. In modern trade deals, non-tariff aspects make up the bulk of the agreement. That means everything from regulation—we probably all now know more than we would like about chlorinated chickens, but that is just one symbol of the regulatory aspects of trade deals that really concern the public, and I think many parliamentarians, too. Intellectual property, which has a direct correlation to the price of medicines and the price that the NHS may bear for them, through to local government procurement and e-commerce can also be added to that.

Modern trade deals touch on huge areas of public policy, which should be within the scope of Parliament to control. We are concerned that the Bill does not allow for that scope. As Nick said, it is difficult for us to imagine that many of these deals will be a straight cut and paste. That is why the explanatory notes allow for substantial changes to be made to the deals, but without the requisite scrutiny that we believe Members deserve and require if we are to have proper control of our trade policy.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Chair, I know that others on my side wish to come in, but those on the other side may wish to speak.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Can I follow up? Can you at least suggest what sort of changes you think are necessary? How do you think Parliament can deliver what you have just indicated you want?

Nick Dearden: Certainly. We think there should be several stages. First, before the negotiations, Parliament or a parliamentary Committee should give consent to those negotiations and should have some role in setting out the broad framework or objectives. We also think that at that stage the Government should have a responsibility to conduct and publish impact assessments and public consultations. It is set out in great detail how those should be conducted in the European Union and the United States.

As the negotiations are proceeding, Parliament should be able to scrutinise Ministers on what they are negotiating. It should be able to see negotiating texts. We think there should be a presumption that negotiating texts should be transparent to everybody, but even if there are specific reasons why they cannot be, they should certainly be transparent to MPs. If the Government want to change their mandate, they should have to come back to Parliament or to a parliamentary Committee to ask for that.

When negotiations are finalised, there should be a guaranteed debate and, at the least, an up-or-down vote. That would make a huge difference, because at the moment at none of those stages does Parliament have any control: it is not allowed to know what is going on in the negotiations; it has no role in setting the mandate; it is not allowed to see the negotiating texts; it is not guaranteed a debate; and it cannot vote against a trade deal. We think that what I have suggested would bring us into line with other modern democracies.

I will give a very small example. CETA, which still has not had a proper debate in the House, has been discussed in detail for days by the Wallonian Assembly in Belgium. They take seriously the regulatory aspects of trade deals and we think that, post-Brexit, we need to be looking at a similar model.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q What other countries do you think we should be looking to for the way they do these things?

Nick Dearden: We know that post-Brexit we want to be doing a trade deal with the European Union and the United States, so they are good places to start. Both political entities have set out in detail a number of ways in which they negotiate and give Congress or Parliament power over trade deals. In the United States, a 700-strong citizen advisory board is allowed to see all the texts. They have to have very specific public consultations. At the very least, Congress gets an up-or-down vote at the end, and if it does not fast-track trade deals, it gets substantially more power than that.

In the European Union, the Parliament gets to feed into a mandate—the Council gets to set a mandate. Various parliamentary Committees get to look at, scrutinise and give recommendations to the Executive for how a trade deal would affect jobs, the economy, the environment, human rights, or whatever else we may be concerned about. At the end, the Parliament is given a proper debate and an up-or-down vote.

On top of that, as I have already said, many trade deals are required to go back to member Parliaments for them to have a say, too. If you look at how Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands or Finland operate, they already exercise far more scrutiny over external EU trade deals than the UK does.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Mr Dearden, you say that Parliament should approve Government entering into negotiations. Given that the Government are talking to at least 100 countries at all times about trade, how would that work in practice?

Nick Dearden: There are various ways in which you could do it. One of the ways is to have a Committee set up particularly to scrutinise the Government on this. When the time comes to enter negotiations on a deal, it will discuss with the Government what their priorities are and they will say, “We think this is acceptable and this is not acceptable.” It will be brought in from the very beginning.

I think that is important, because the Secretary of State has said a number of times, “I really want to avoid a TTIP-style situation, where we end up with a deal in discussion that has lost public support and lost a lot of parliamentary support.” To do that, we must have that buy-in from the very beginning, and that must require some degree of parliamentary discussion about what the objectives for this country should be in a trade deal with country X.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q That sounds nice, but how does that work in practice? At what point are Ministers, or indeed our ambassadors, allowed to talk to another country?

Nick Dearden: That would probably depend on exactly when proper trade negotiation starts and we are properly discussing a trade deal.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q How do you define that?

Nick Dearden: You can look at how it happens in Denmark, for example, because they do exactly that. They have a parliamentary Committee that sets a mandate at the initiation of trade talks. I understand that obviously the Government are talking to loads of different countries at any one time about possible trade, but within each of the countries they are talking to, they must have objectives. It is for Parliament to scrutinise, set and agree to those objectives.

At the moment, I do not feel that we have that ability. We are talking to a lot of countries; we have 16 trade working groups currently set up between the Secretary of State and other countries. We know, because we have read it in the media, that various negotiations are ongoing with some of those countries, but Parliament, and we as civil society, have no right to know what is being discussed, when it is being discussed and with whom. That is a profound democratic deficit. At the very least, if these are formal working groups involved in trade discussions, we should know what they are talking about, to whom and when.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Would that apply to memorandums of understanding or bilateral agreements? You are talking in generalities, and I am trying to find out the facts.

Nick Dearden: I would say at the very least, at this point in time, for each of the trade working groups that has been set up, there should be a mandate set by parliamentary Committees.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q What kind of trade agreement do you think is a good one? Some people think they are just a playground for the super-rich.

Nick Dearden: There is something to be said for that if you look at previous trade agreements such as TTIP—how they have worked and how people have felt about them. There is a big populist backlash going on around the world at the moment, part of which is a result of people feeling there is a democratic deficit in the trade agreements being signed.

We have lots of ideas for how we could construct a trade agreement and how we would want to do it, and I should say now that we are absolutely not against trade; even with TTIP, we were not against the tariff aspects of that trade agreement. When it comes to public policy, it is different. Again, I am not against international co-operation, in trade agreements or other agreements, but there has to be a democratic basis for how those things are decided.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q So free trade agreements are a good thing?

Nick Dearden: They might be or they might not. It depends how they are done, who they are done with and what the terms are. If you have two very different types of country, in terms of wealth and power, obviously there can be a big problem because some people have a much bigger negotiating hand than others. That is what we have seen with economic partnership agreements, which is why we would prefer, for example, to give tariff-free access to goods coming from those countries rather than do a reciprocal agreement, which also puts what we believe to be unsustainable and unhelpful conditions on the African country concerned.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My concern is not with the follow-on scrutiny of events that happened, but more the idea that somehow Parliament should require our existing teams in negotiations to seek approval before they start those conversations. That is my concern, but I will not delay the Committee any longer.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You were talking about the way in which other countries do the preparation of mandate and scrutiny of the process of creating a trade agreement. I wonder whether perhaps Nick Ashton-Hart could talk about the system in Australia and how the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties does it—or perhaps the system in Germany. Could one of you talk about that?

Nick Ashton-Hart: I would also say on the point about when terms of reference are set and whether our ambassadors need permission before they go and talk, I worked with most of our trading partners in Geneva and dozens of other countries. There are a lot of commonalities in how legislatures interact with Trade Ministries. Generally, the Trade Ministry will say, “We want to achieve these objectives over the course of this Parliament or this year,” and that is done in consultation with the relevant parliamentary Committees.

Ambassadors explore ideas with countries all the time; they do not need a mandate to do that. When it becomes clear that there is interest in formalising something, a process goes on in the capital to say, “Okay, what is our net benefit to be achieved?” To do a deal of any configuration with country X, the economics teams in the Ministry would go away and say, “Where is the net trade-generative agreement here? What sectors would we have to include? What likely trade-offs would we have to do with the other side?”

But that process would generally be informed by a consultation with the stakeholders in the industrial sectors that have most to gain or lose, the unions in those sectors and the like, so that before you even get into a negotiation, you know where your benefits lie, you have your stakeholders signed up to what you are trying to achieve and the other side knows that you have those things.

As I pointed out in my comments, the reason why you see so many leaks in trade negotiations is that it is in the interest of one party or another to put pressure on the other in their capital. Leaks do not happen by accident; they are deliberate.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think we are familiar with that!

Nick Ashton-Hart: You are familiar with how that dynamic works. It is no different in trade negotiations.

What I have described is pretty much a common process everywhere in the world, and it is not accidental; it is because the political economy demands that you have the backing, as a negotiator, at home when you are sitting across the table from your counterparties and that they know that you have that. They can watch your processes of consent and agreement and evaluate where your weaknesses are—where there are buttons they can push, but also where you are likely to need support. People know that you have to get to a sustainable deal also, and sometimes you have to do a concession at the right time to solve a problem in a domestic constituency for your counterparty, provided that it is in your interest to do so.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q As Mr Dearden will know, this Bill is not concerned with the making of future trade deals. However, of the 40 trade deals that we are seeking to transition, could you set out for the Committee which you supported at the time and which you opposed?

Nick Dearden: I do not have a complete list of all of them, but I do know that we have very serious concerns about the economic partnership agreements with African countries, for example, because of some of the conditions that are placed on those countries. We have particular concerns, because we worked on it, with the CETA agreement with Canada, again related to the so-called non-tariff barriers in that agreement.

One problem is that no matter what we thought about the agreements when they were originally negotiated, they are going to look different when it comes to being translated into or replaced by a UK-Canada or UK-African country agreement; they are just going to be different deals. Given that, I think it only right that there be some degree of scrutiny. It says in the Bill, “Well, we aim for these deals to be as similar as possible.” I understand that, but it may well be that some of the deals will be more similar than others.

For the deals that are more similar, I think it would be right and proper for Parliament to say, “Okay, fine. We will wave that one through. We understand that that is continuity.” But for other deals—what a substantial amendment or change in the deal would look like is not defined—we believe that Parliament should have proper scrutiny and proper ratification powers. That is particularly important for deals that have not even been through the proper ratification process in the European Union—examples involve Singapore, Japan and Vietnam. Those deals may all be replaced by UK deals, but they have not been through the proper process as yet in the European Union, and we do not want to see a situation in which they are taken on just because we are so rushed that we do not have time to really think about the consequences of the deals.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Did you support any of the deals at the time?

Nick Dearden: As a campaigning organisation, we are likely to pick up only those deals—

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Would you say that you are supportive of free trade?

Nick Dearden: I would say we are supportive of trade, but it depends on how it is done. Absolutely. For example, I would say that an awful lot of trade that has happened in the European Union over the last 40 years —not all of it, because some of it we would be concerned about—has raised standards. It has raised standards for producers and for consumers, and that is positive. In the European Union, there is at least a balancing of trade and economic interests with social interests and environmental interests and with democratic scrutiny and accountability, so it is possible to do that.

Judith Cummins Portrait Judith Cummins (Bradford South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q This question is for Nick Ashton-Hart. Given the sheer number and the complexity of the deals that you are describing, do you believe that it is possible to have all the agreements ready to go on day one after Brexit?

Nick Ashton-Hart: There are so many moving parts. Assuming that there is a date, that we know it, and that all counterparties have a few years’ advance warning of it—the date that matters is a date on which existing agreements will no longer be available to us—we would have to look at their approval process and count backwards to find the date by which we would have to conclude our negotiations with them. That is the only way that you would know what your actual hard finishing date was for any of those agreements. I do not know if that analysis has been done by the Department for International Trade—I am hoping that it has done some of it, and I am guessing that it probably has. Say it takes two years, and we have two years. We are not going to finish an agreement tomorrow, so that means that that deal will not be done in time. What percentage of our GDP, and of our exports and imports, is that deal, which will not be available?

That is the first thing that you would have to do is know how much negotiating time you have, and with which parties. You would then have to prioritise deals based on their economic importance to us. I am not sure what the decision tree is within the Ministry—I am sure that there must be one—for what it prioritises. The only way that you all will have a clear picture of the deadlines is to work backwards. I have seen no discussion at all of how long it takes our counterparties to conclude approving an agreement, but it can be a considerable time, depending on the country. I imagine it would be very difficult. The short answer is that it is hard for me to imagine that there are even enough people to negotiate that many deals simultaneously with that many parties, unless you had several years to do it.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)
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Q Mr Dearden, you seemed to indicate that there are some countries with which you do not think we should do trade deals. Is that a fair comment?

Nick Dearden: It probably is, yes, because there may be countries where, for example, the human rights situation is so bad that any trade deal that you do is effectively reinforcing and giving succour to a regime to which we would not want to give succour.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Name some of them.

Nick Dearden: For example, there are serious human rights abuses in Turkey at the moment. The Prime Minister, as many people know, was the first political leader to visit Donald Trump in the United States after he was elected. After visiting President Trump, she went to President Erdoğan of Turkey, and a trade deal was part of the negotiations there. At that time, she also sold £100 million-worth of weapons to Turkey. That was an inappropriate thing to do, and it was connected with our ability to conduct a trade deal with that country, post Brexit. You may disagree with that, of course, but at the very least, there should be parliamentary control over those kinds of actions and activities. I do not think that just because they are in the international realm, they should be negotiated under royal prerogative; they have an impact on policy here. MPs should be apprised of that and should authorise it.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers
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Q Going back to the issue of parliamentary scrutiny, under schedule 2, either House of Parliament can annul the regulations and prevent them from entering into law. Why do you regard that as inadequate?

Nick Dearden: That is a really important point. On the public policy aspects of trade deals, traditionally we thought that we did not need to worry about whether we ratified the trade deal, because Parliament would have the power to authorise implementing legislation for the various things that we needed to do to put the trade deal into effect. There is a problem with that: once a trade deal is signed and ratified, it really makes no difference whether Parliament enacts that legislation or not—we are committed to it under international treaty. It is too late to say no. Normally, we do not intend to say no—we have done the deal—but if there was a real dispute, and Parliament said, “We have a problem with that”, we would have real difficulty in stopping it, because we had already agreed to do it.

Various things that impact on public policy are never brought forward for implementation as legislation anyway. One of the things that people were particularly concerned about with TTIP, as you probably know, was the investment protection tribunals that allow overseas companies to sue Governments for various things—for what they regard as unfair treatment, for the indirect expropriation of assets and so on. There is a lot of public concern about those bodies, because people feel that this infringes on democratic sovereignty and accountability, yet those things never need to be signed off by Parliament. They just exist in the trade deal, from day one, so Parliament does not have a say in whether things that have been proved to have tangible impacts on public policy come into effect. That is one example of why it is important for the ratification process to be seen as directly impinging on public policy, and why scrutiny and accountability are necessary.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid (Warrington South) (Lab)
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Q What impact assessment should be conducted on the process, and why?

Nick Ashton-Hart: Several. I think first for the agreements you wish to transition you would look at the net economic benefit of transitioning them. You would then have to look at what likely changes the other party would be asking for—they would be doing the same analysis—and what changes you would ask for. You have to assume the worst. You have to assume the other party is going to ask for changes, and you have to assume that you will need to ask for some also. If you get lucky and you do not have to do any of that, that is great, but you cannot do this on hope. You have to do it on the worst-case scenario.

I think at that point you would have to bring in stakeholders to help you make that analysis. The expertise to do this is not all in government. It never is. It is also in the private sector and in academia. At the point where you had that you would know the basis on which you were transitioning the arrangements. This is not a trivial undertaking. Because of the regulatory impacts that newer deals, especially, have, you would also have to look at the consequences of certain changes to other arrangements.

For example, if there are most-favoured nation clauses in a deal that you wish to transition, as there often are, and if any changes are made to that arrangement when you transition it, it can impact all the other deals that have MFN clauses. This is now being discussed publicly, related to whether the EU could do an expanded services deal with us, and who would automatically get the benefits of it. For example, a Canadian deal would provide that the EU would have to give the benefits they give us to several other parties, Japan and Canada included.

We are in the same situation because there are MFN clauses in these agreements that we wish to transition, so you have to analyse the net economic benefit to you of the deal in question, but also the consequences of any changes to other deals that you want to transition, because you can guarantee that, for any MFN clause in any other deal, the parties that you are going to negotiate with will be looking at what you are giving in these other discussions and of course expecting to receive in them also.

There is a good reason why trade arrangements are slow, and there are not many going at one time. It is because this is an enormous number of moving parts to try to manage at one go—for us but also for the other Trade Ministries, because deals with us are not the only deals that they have going or that they are working on. If I were you, I would be asking the Ministry: “Look, what is your plan for dealing with these different eventualities?”

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
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Q You mentioned things such as stakeholders and scrutiny a few times. Obviously the UK has not been directly responsible for trade deals for 40 years. Do you think this is the right opportunity to make a Bill that is more democratically, socially and economically transparent?

Nick Ashton-Hart: I think it is essential, aside from the benefits in terms of being a democracy that is looked up to by others as an example, and not wanting to set an example that is far below the minimum level of accountability in any other developed economy, which is what we would be doing—we would be setting a precedent here that should concern everyone.

Secondarily, it is in our interest to do that, because there is going to be a political hue and cry about various provisions in probably all the 40-plus deals. There is going to be something that someone does not like about them. That is the nature of trade agreements. Some sectors win and some lose. Losers complain and winners keep quiet mostly, because they do not want to provoke people who won. The objective is to have a net benefit, but that does not mean that within that there are not winners and losers.

There is going to be controversy associated with these arrangements. Having effective and robust consultation now will help insulate the negotiating process and provide a rationale for all of you, the Members, to go to your constituencies and say, “Look, there is a reason why we are doing it this way. We have had an oversight process. Here is what the country will get out of this.” For those districts or constituencies that will be negatively impacted by a deal, you will be able to go to your constituents and say, “Okay, on this one we may not do so well, but we will do well on this and this and this, and the net benefit to all of us is positive.” The consultation process provides all of you with the ammunition you need to explain why at a real level—the firm level and the sectoral level—transitioning the arrangements in the way that they will be agreed is in your constituents’ interests and the national interest.

Without that dialogue, you do not have that ammunition. Every time you are hit with a news story, you will have to go and ask the Ministry concerned, “How do I counter this?” Being reactive all the time on trade policy has a very unhappy history of negative views of trade in general, and of deals in particular. Criticism does not have to be true to stick, as I am sure we are all familiar. I would say—Nick might disagree—that there was some criticism of TTIP and provisions that were alleged would be in the deal, such as things that affected NHS procurement, which were actually excluded from the negotiating mandate. The fact that those criticisms were levelled did not stop there being a political cost to the negotiation as a whole from the allegation that those provisions would be inbuilt. On a pragmatic basis, there is a very strong argument for a robust consultation process, but the negotiators themselves are going to need information that is in the private sector and in academia as part of their negotiating arguments, and without a robust consultation process they will not have access to those.

None Portrait The Chair
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Can I say, before I go on to the next person, that I have at least six people who still want to ask a question and we have a maximum of 23 minutes, so can people bear that mind?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden) (Con)
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Q I would like to bring Mr Howarth into the conversation. Going back to the purpose of the Bill and the need for the continuity agreements with those countries that are covered by EU deals, how practical is it, in your opinion, to transfer those agreements into bilateral trade deals?

Christopher Howarth: It is important, getting back to the Trade Bill, that it only gives a power for existing trade agreements. These trade agreements are already in force and companies already rely upon them. When we talk about impact assessments, the biggest impact assessment is that these agreements are already in force or have already gone through a scrutiny process and may come into force, such as CETA. Obviously, in leaving the European Union, we are moving to a different scrutiny system. Before, they could be decided by the Commission, the European Parliament by qualified majority voting or, in the cases of mixed agreements, you would have to get unanimity, occasionally from devolved Administrations as well. We are moving to a new system, but these agreements are already in force.

The relationship with the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is that we are keeping retained legislation and we are keeping the EU standards, so if there are any amendments to these agreements, they have to be in line with the regulations—the food safety and environmental standards—that are being retained in UK law. The scope for actually changing things is quite narrow. These have been through a scrutiny process. They are in force. This Bill is necessary, in my opinion, so that the people who rely on these agreements can be sure that they will be transferred over in time.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Badenoch
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Q And the practicalities?

Christopher Howarth: Trade agreements do traditionally take a very long time. In this case, they are already in force and we already have texts. Small amendments may need to be made around quotas—in some of the agreements we need to agree with the European Union and the counterparty how to split the quotas up—but the texts by and large have been agreed. In the future we may wish to come back to them to improve them or to fit them more to UK interests, but these agreements do exist. Trade agreements traditionally take a long time. I refer you to Parkinson’s law: that trade agreements tend to expand to the amount of time available to negotiate them. If you give trade negotiators 10 years to negotiate an agreement, it will probably take 10 years. In this case we have a fixed deadline, and I assume both sides will want to fit the negotiations and the necessary functions to that.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
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Q You made an important point. Clearly we need to ensure that the trade we have with many of these existing partner countries continues. That is an essential focus, which I think is uncontroversial around this room, but when you are talking about the amendments that might be made—as these treaties cease to be simply EU treaties that we are part of and become bilateral relationships with these countries, new treaties and distinct legal entities, as the addendums to the Bill have made clear—do you agree that it would be a fine opportunity for many of these countries to say that they want greater access to our markets in return for having this new agreement with us, or that they might take the opportunity to protect their market a little bit more? Might one of the reasons why the Bill puts in place a Henry VIII power be precisely because it envisages a scenario where such amendments might be made and where we might have to accommodate them, and the Minister then adopts that power in order to do so?

Christopher Howarth: I think it is true to say that the agreements the European Union made were fitted around European Union interests and that if the UK were starting from scratch, we may have had other interests. The EU interests would protect French farmers and the French audio-visual industry. You would get a price on the other side, say with Canadian agriculture. If the UK was doing it, we might do it differently. That is probably a discussion that would take longer and we would come back to later, and these agreements would probably stay exactly as they are. On the scrutiny side, we had a sort of mirror of this debate in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill negotiation and discussions in Parliament. There may be some—

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
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Q Sorry, I did not ask about the scrutiny. I asked about the Henry VIII power, because if, as you have just suggested, most of these things will simply be rolled over and there will not be changes, what is the point of the Henry VIII power? Why would the Government need that, unless they precisely envisaged that there would be changes that they required that power to accommodate?

Christopher Howarth: There may be some minor changes, potentially around the EU agreements and our relationship with the European Union. If there is an EU-agreed quota in an agreement with a third country—in terms of how we split that up, how we change that or the wording of the agreement—then there may be references that need changing in the agreements. There may be minor changes, but I imagine the substance of the agreements will stay pretty much as they are.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
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Q Why would a third-party country not take this opportunity? You took the issues of audio-visual in France, agriculture and so on. Why would a country not see this as an opportunity to get a better deal, as Nick Ashton-Hart has suggested they may well do?

Christopher Howarth: Indeed, it might be an opportunity for the UK to get a better deal, because if we are a more liberal economy and we have more to offer, we may be able to get better access.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
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Q Indeed, but we have the need for speed. We do not want to gum things up. We want this to be done as quickly as possible, but that may not happen. Knowing that we are between a rock and a hard place in terms of time, other countries might see a negotiating advantage and an opportunity to press their case. Is that not the case?

Christopher Howarth: Yes, but speed will probably be the overarching thing that dictates that they will remain as they are for the foreseeable future. We may come back to that at a later date.

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con)
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Q To follow on from that question, the Bill contains a five-year sunset clause. How practical would it be to get substantial changes to existing arrangements in that timeframe?

Christopher Howarth: The timeframe that we are working on at the moment is that we will leave the European Union on 29 March 2019, so that will be two years, then three years after that. That is a substantial time in which to negotiate. The United States and Australia negotiated a full agreement in roughly two years. Some countries take longer, some less, but that would be a substantial amount of time to revisit and improve agreements.

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart
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Q May I also ask about the cost of not having those continuity agreements? What would be the impact on British business if we were not able to replicate the current deals, or something very close to them, at the point of leaving?

Christopher Howarth: The countries that the European Union has agreements with—South Korea, South Africa, Mexico—are major trading partners. Something that has not been mentioned so far is the plurilateral World Trade Organisation government procurement agreement, which gives British businesses access to over £1 trillion of Government contracts around the world. As a liberal country that tends to accept contracts from other countries, it is important that we get reciprocal rights for British businesses to other countries. Remaining part of that plurilateral agreement, which the Bill allows, would be important for British businesses when seeking Government contracts abroad.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
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Q I have a quick question for Mr Howarth and a longer question for Mr Ashton-Hart. Mr Howarth, you are a senior researcher at the House of Commons. Who exactly do you work for?

Christopher Howarth: I work for a group of mostly Conservative MPs.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith
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Q Mr Ashton-Hart, can you tell us more about the Australian Parliament and Government and how they do trade? In your view, how effective is that?

Nick Ashton-Hart: I am not really an expert in how the Australian Government do their consultations, so I cannot describe them in detail. I can describe how the trade officials who I deal with view them. From my conversations with trade officials over the past six or seven years, most of them find the oversight process challenging. The Australians are no exception to that.

For example, in the discussions on the flow of data that have taken place at the WTO and in the trade in services agreement negotiation, of which Australia is a part and which the US and Australia created, a significant portion of all the issues that delayed all the services parts—all the digital elements—of TISA were related to the flow of data and to the Australian negotiators’ view of what they could get their oversight processes to consent to in relation to it. A comprehensive change to their data protection regulation came into force about four years ago, and its structure made it impossible to evaluate how it would work in a plurilateral context because of how it applied liability when private information was given to non-nationals. That meant that they were unable to make an offer or respond to other offers for a considerable period of time—about 18 months, I think—as a result of their oversight process at home. That was in relation to just one part of the plurilateral negotiation.

That example has held true. I have seen it happen with probably half a dozen countries on various issues over time. If there is a political problem in one area, it generally gums up everything else because it is often not convenient for you to say, “I have a problem in Parliament at home, so I cannot talk to you about x and y.” Instead, you would say, “We are still consulting on that.” Meanwhile, you will ask for something impossibly difficult, knowing that the other party will then get stuck. Once your problem goes away, you can withdraw the thing that is causing things to stick over here, because this is the political economy. You do not want to be negotiating on your weaknesses. You want to negotiate on someone else’s, so you have to create them if you have a negotiating bloc.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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Q You have mentioned that a lot of the existing deals are premised on the fact that you have got 28 EU countries and, therefore, are negotiating for a majority and compromise. Why would UK Ministers choose to just accept these deals and not be tempted to try and use Henry VIII powers to manipulate the deals or negotiate further? Why would they accept it is already a compromise?

Christopher Howarth: It is probably a matter of practicalities. There are a number of these around the world and starting negotiations with all of them at the same time is probably impractical. That is not to say that these agreements were not based on EU interests; UK interests are slightly different. There are things we would have prioritised to gain access for British companies and there were some defensive interests that were not relevant to the UK. Taking an example: citrus fruit or things we do not produce in this country. There were things we would have done differently.

These are probably questions to come back to at a later date. At the moment, it is about trying to make sure these agreements still exist when we leave the European Union, so it is the practicalities of getting these agreements moved over into the UK’s name and out of the EU’s name, putting the UK’s signature on them.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
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Q You also mentioned quotas. How did quotas get allocated in the new deals? How does that come across without effectively leading to a renegotiation of a whole lot of deals, because so many countries have got vested interests in different quotas?

Christopher Howarth: If one of the European Union’s agreements has a quota in it, as the UK leaves, the counterparty might wish to continue to be able to export the same amount into the European Union and the UK. So it would be a three-way negotiation, which would involve splitting the quota up, with different countries taking different views as to what the fair way to do that would be.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
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Q So it would still be a negotiation; there is no straight carry-over of quotas.

Christopher Howarth: Yes, it would need splitting up. You either do it with the counterparty via the WTO and you would need to discuss it with the European Union as well.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
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Q This is more for Nick Ashton-Hart. You outlined that you really think Government should be doing impact assessments—assessing risks and opportunities. In terms of risks and opportunities, am I correct in thinking that the Government also need to look at how they are shaping their future domestic policy? We have heard that part of Brexit is that it is supposed to give opportunities to replace the common agricultural policy, but surely if you are looking at existing trade deals—taking them over, risks and opportunities—you need to look at a whole raft of other policies that are going to replace current EU-agreed, Europe-wide policies and procedures.

Nick Ashton-Hart: It depends very much on the nature of the deals in question and how recent they are. All the deals tend to be more focused on tariffs and the like, whereas it is somewhat simpler. Where it involves services, yes, even though these agreements are in force now, as was explained, you still have to accept that what France wanted from that deal when it was negotiated, what Germany wanted, what we wanted: these are not the same as what we and the other party want now. There are things such as protections for certain industries that we do not protect, but the other party will say, “Can we take that out?” and we might say, “Okay, but then we want this over here.”

Human nature is such that, if you are given a chance to negotiate on something and it is of serious monetary value, you are going to ask for a better deal than you got last time. If we buy cars, we do this. We don’t go and buy the car and say, “We will pay full price”—although some people might—or a house or the like. Countries do not do this. So you have to assume that normal human behaviour is not going to be thrown out of the window simply because we are in a hurry to transition our arrangements over to someone else. You have to assume that human nature will still apply and the other country is still going to behave as a rational negotiating partner, which is to seek their advantage from our need for speed.

The only way then to proceed is to say, “Okay, let’s look at these deals as they apply to us now and let’s consider: what is the other side likely to ask for? What is it in their interests to ask for and is it in our interests to agree to it, because it is expeditious, or because it is in our interests, or both?” You have to treat this as a negotiation, not as a replication.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
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Q Would we be negligent if we did not take this opportunity to try to improve the economic benefit that we get out of these deals?

Nick Ashton-Hart: I cannot imagine that the constituencies of this country would see it any other way. This is a substantial portion of our GDP; it is a substantial portion of our export and import. How can you say to people that you passed up an opportunity to make things better, when that was part of the premise under which we are doing this whole exercise in the first place? And our other counterparties certainly will not see our need for speed as anything other than an advantage to them, because it is. We are the ones in a hurry. Japan is 1.8% of our exports or something like that.

None Portrait The Chair
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May I just say that I have at least two, and possibly three people who still want to catch my eye, and we have a maximum of four minutes left? So perhaps a short question and a short answer would help.

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan (Chichester) (Con)
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Q You mentioned Australia and that example sounds truly horrendous, in terms of gumming up. By the way, I think that in Australia trade deals are signed and agreed by the Cabinet, not by Parliament. Bearing in mind that you are talking about whether we are really in a negotiation starting from scratch or a replication with minor changes, 18% of the world’s data is currently hosted in the UK. There are businesses right across Europe that are completely reliant on all of that trade working the day after. So do you not think that because there will be business pressure on things actually running practically, that will ensure that this negotiation does not go back to the beginning, because the business pressure is that it continues as efficiently as it runs today?

Nick Ashton-Hart: If people are trading with us now under an arrangement, there is an incentive for them to see that it continues. I am not suggesting that that is not true. What I am suggesting is that it is an opportunity for the other parties to ask for things that they wanted last time and did not get, or that the passage of time of those agreements—age—means that it is appropriate to ask now. I am saying that everyone needs to bring home some benefit for something.

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
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Q If that benefit has a cost of businesses not running, that will not be seen as a benefit in their own countries. That is what you are weighing up here, is it not? The status quo operating as efficiently as it does—

Nick Ashton-Hart: I am saying that I have never seen or heard of a Trade Ministry not asking for some improvement when any deal is being renegotiated, because that is how you are seen to be doing your job.

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
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Q I do not think that we have seen anything quite like this, in terms of trade deals.

None Portrait The Chair
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May I move on finally to Anna McMorrin, because she has been waiting patiently, for probably the last question?

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin (Cardiff North) (Lab)
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Q May I ask Nick Ashton-Hart a question? In order to continue with the same access for our companies and the same conditions for supply chains, will not these deals need to be trilateral rather than bilateral, with an aspect of co-operating with the EU?

Nick Ashton-Hart: It depends on the nature of the agreement. If it is a situation where a quota has to be split, then yes. We see this in Geneva now, where the quotas at WTO level are being split up, or even our closest trading partners are arguing over whether one plus one equals one. In other areas, it is not necessarily the case. It really depends on the way the original agreement was made, and who else might benefit from a change to it through an MFN clause, or the like.

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin
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Q I was particularly thinking about rules of origin and diagonal cumulation.

Nick Ashton-Hart: Where there are rules that we are accepting from the EU, then of course we have less flexibility to make a change if it is asked for by the other side; that would conflict, of course.

None Portrait The Chair
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Order. That brings us to the end of the time allocated for the Committee to ask questions. I thank witnesses for their evidence, and I thank Nick Dearden and Nick Ashton-Hart for their written evidence; I am sure that we are all grateful for it.

Examination of Witnesses

James Ashton-Bell, Chris Southworth, Tony Burke and Martin McTague gave evidence.

10:26
None Portrait The Chair
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Q We will now hear oral evidence from James Ashton-Bell, head of trade and investment at the CBI; Chris Southworth, secretary-general of the International Chamber of Commerce UK; and Martin McTague, national policy chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses. We were also due to hear from Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of Unite the Union, but I understand that he has been caught up in an evacuation and will get here as soon as he can.

For this sitting, we have until 11.25 am. Would each of the witnesses please introduce themselves for the record?

James Ashton-Bell: I am James Ashton-Bell, head of international trade and investment at the Confederation of British Industry.

Chris Southworth: Chris Southworth, secretary-general of the International Chamber of Commerce here in the UK.

Martin McTague: I am Martin McTague, national policy director for the Federation of Small Businesses.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
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Q This is a question for Mr Southworth. Does the Bill as it currently stands have the support of businesses?

Chris Southworth: There are four key elements within the Bill that are broadly in the right direction of travel around setting up a trade remedies Bill, sharing data and so on, but there are missing elements—I think we agree with a much wider community of non-governmental organisations and unions—where we need a more inclusive approach to dealing with trade, more democratic oversight and more policy connectivity. We are speaking in a context of G20, where there is a very public commitment to developing a free trade model that works for everyone. That is missing in the current Trade Bill.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Mr Ashton-Bell?

James Ashton-Bell: I think we start from the place that the Bill does a lot of really important things for business, in terms of providing continuity. Continuity is absolutely key in all business leaders’ minds when it comes to our trade relationship with the EU, but also with third countries and the World Trade Organisation. The Bill goes a long way toward providing assurances with regard to the WTO on things like procurement, ensuring—as you have heard—that trade remedies are available and provisions for replication of free trade agreements that we currently enjoy through the EU.

I think business is looking for more in the longer term, and there is a broader question about whether or not this is the right vehicle to use to create the kinds of structure that they need around consultation. Any major trade country in the world has extensive and formalised ways of engaging with civil society to ensure that they get the maximum amount of input into trade policy that they need. The question of whether or not this is the right legislative vehicle to create such a structure and such a process is one that I will leave to Members, but business is looking for those kinds of structure, and if not now, when?

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
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Q So you both agree that you would be looking for more consultation and more transparency. Is that fair?

James Ashton-Bell: Yes.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Mr McTague?

Martin McTague: Our clear priority is the transition process. It is vitally important that there is no cliff edge at this very early stage. Our members, and the small business community as a whole, see this as an enabling Bill, something that will help a smooth transition, so in principle we welcome it.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
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Q May I link to that and ask about your experience with other countries, where you may have visibility? How do they do this better and what should we be considering to include in the Bill?

Chris Southworth: There is a general recognition across the international community since the EU referendum—of course, that was followed by Trump and further issues across the G7—that the existing models for handling trade need to change. That is because there is a disconnect within society and over wider communities and regions, particularly in the lower-skilled areas, where they have not benefited from the growth of trade.

Everybody is looking for exemplars. Some countries have more structured set-ups, such as the US and New Zealand, where it is much less around the ad hoc consultation and engagement that we have in the UK. That is one key point to make. There are definitely lessons to learn from elsewhere, including the EU, I have to say. The propositions in the Trade Bill are a lesser option than what already exists within the EU. Although the EU itself can improve, there are elements of their structures that would work well for the UK, going forward. That is a key point to make.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

May I interrupt to welcome Tony Burke, who is the assistant general secretary of Unite the Union? We are very grateful to you.

Tony Burke: Apologies for being delayed. St Pancras and King’s Cross tubes were closed. I have done some fleet footwork to get here.

None Portrait The Chair
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We appreciate that and are grateful that you managed to get here.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Mr Ashton-Bell, would you like to comment?

James Ashton-Bell: I support everything that Chris has just said. For us, we look at the spectrum of different formal ways of engaging civil society. At one extreme you have the United States, which has an incredibly elaborate set of technical committees, numbering several hundred different members of civil society, to provide technical assistance to officials. At the other extreme there are less formalised systems for economies that tend to be a little bit less complex and tend to be significantly smaller than ourselves.

Business would come down somewhere along the lines of being closer to the US model than something less formalised for a less complicated economy that is also quite a bit smaller. Does that mean we need everything that the US model has? No, absolutely. We need a UK-specific bespoke model but it would probably be quite elaborate, to ensure that it takes in every business and wider civil society from across every region of the UK, across every size and shape of organisation and across all the different types of technical expertise, which crosses many different policy issues—everything from intellectual property to issues of data.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You see this as crucial to getting a good deal?

James Ashton-Bell: I struggle to understand how any Government, engaging in trade policy, be it at multilateral or bilateral level, would be able to get the best possible outcome for that negotiation unless they were using the full strength of their economy, pooling from the best minds that exist within and outside Government.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Mr McTague, do you have a view?

Martin McTague: It is difficult to draw parallels with any other country withdrawing from a 40-year relationship. The view that we have taken in the past is that consultation has worked well, inasmuch as the small business community, which we think is a vital part of the economy, has been listened to, and we would hope that that would happen in future. However, there is a temptation, because the bigger corporates sometimes have more access to Government, that small business does not really get listened to. This component, we think, is absolutely vital in the development of the policy.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
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Q Can I ask the witnesses about the Trade Remedies Authority? In your opinion, how effective do you think it could be, given that the Bill provides a framework? I appreciate there are lots of details to fill in later. How independent do you think that authority can be, given the way in which the Bill is currently drafted? I will start with FSB and work my way along.

Martin McTague: At the moment our view is that the early stages of development of TRA look encouraging, but we know they are a consultation. We know that they are looking at a variety of different options, and we are willing to wait for the consultation process before we get into a committed decision.

Chris Southworth: The principles are there in terms of setting up a trade role and it is as much to do with the speed around that. I would echo the same thoughts: there needs to be a lot more consultation around them and there needs to be clearer evidence of learning best practice from others. We are not the only country proposing a Trade Remedies Authority. I would start with the idea that having a trade remedies authority and the core concepts that exist in this Bill feel broadly right.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Do you feel that there is sufficient distance between the Secretary of State and the TRA?

Chris Southworth: Yes, I would have thought so. I do not think there should be any opposition to the idea that one may need to evolve in time. The UK has to re-learn how it does trade as an independent country, so we will not get it 100% right in the beginning. It should be able to evolve over time, and if there is a better way of doing it, then do it.

James Ashton-Bell: I take a slightly different view. As to what is in the Bill at present, our internal analysis of the Trade Remedies Authority is that there is a fundamental question, and we are looking for an answer to it: that question is about who makes the ultimate decisions about when to take action and when not to take action.

Having an independent organisation to advise on the data that exists—or does not exist, in many cases—is useful. The EU has found time and again that it does not have access to the kind of data information it needs to draw the kinds of concrete conclusions that it would like to draw. Given that scenario, it is useful to have an independent organisation to make those choices and to be clear about what information is and is not there.

When you have things like the economic interest test that is currently being floated as part of this authority, which in essence allows for the identification of particularly problematic trade behaviour from a third country and for it not to be actioned by the Government or authority, it means that there will be a decision at some point not to take action. If there is not enough information, then that in itself becomes a subjective decision about which parts of the economy are worth protecting using these particular tools, and it is argued that, if a subjective decision is going to be made, then it needs to most certainly be made by a Minister who is accountable for making those choices.

Tony Burke: Right from the get-go, the Manufacturing Trade Remedies Alliance, which consists of three trade unions and a number of trade associations including UK Steel, chemicals industries and ceramics among others, pressed strongly to get a trade remedies clause or a structure in there. We were able to put forward our proposals in advance of the discussions taking place at this level. One of the things that we would say from the trade union point of view is that it is absolutely essential that the TRA has a trade union voice—a worker’s voice—on it, particularly at non-executive level. We should also obviously be subject to International Labour Organisation conventions that protect workers in that remedies arrangement. We are supported by the employers on this. From our point of view, the situation in Unite is that we have many members in manufacturing who have suffered at the hands of dumping: steel, tyres, ceramic, chemicals and pharma. It is a big concern for us. We would see that we need a remedies authority that is transparent, and that has trade union and employer representation. At the end of the day, Parliament has to have consent over any decisions made.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
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Q You are happy that the authority is sufficiently independent at this point?

Tony Burke: As it stands, but we do not see the transparency that we would like to see, and we also have a view about what appears to be an ability for the Minister to appoint people. We believe that working people and companies should have an opportunity to have a say, and also for trade unions to bring a case. This is important. We have learned from America. We have worked closely with the steelworkers’ union in the United States. They as a trade union in America do bring cases to protect their members in steel, rubber, paper making and industries like that.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
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Q Mr Ashton-Bell, can I pick up on something you said because I noticed that you were nodding when Mr Burke was saying that. You said you struggled to understand how we could get the best deal without engaging every part of society in the debate. You also posed the question of who makes the fundamental decision. Do you therefore agree with Mr Burke that it would be helpful to have, in the nine places available on the TRA, statutory representatives perhaps of small business, the trade unions and producers? At the moment, the Bill has it as a blank sheet for those nine spaces, and nobody is really quite clear who might be appointed. Perhaps you could all comment on that, starting with Mr Ashton-Bell.

James Ashton-Bell: My organisation does not have a defined position on that blank sheet of paper you have just described, but to follow your rationale, and consistent with what I have said so far, bigger organisations do not have a monopoly on understanding how trade impacts the economy. In anything where you are making choices about trade and how it will impact the wider economy, you should have a wide and balanced group of people advising Government, or an independent authority, about how to make those choices. That means, indeed, that small business are very much equal to big business, and workers also, because workers are just as impacted as the businesses themselves.

Chris Southworth: I just want to clarify my point. It is exactly the same: the representation is a critical point. An independent body, yes, but there must be representation within that independent body to represent all the important voices, which includes all those here, but I would also include NGOs and civil society, who have equal interest in the implications of trade. They must be at the table and that has to be in everyone’s interest, including business—big, small and medium.

Martin McTague: Barry, it will not come as a massive surprise to you that, yes, I do agree that small business should be a serious voice on this. It is nice to know that James supports me. That is a welcome change. [Interruption.] It is something that we have clearly got unanimity on.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Badenoch
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Q Speaking about the representation on the Trade Remedies Authority, there have been suggestions that Parliament should have a greater role on this board. What impact would that and other stakeholders have on the impartiality, accountability and timeliness of decisions? Could the panel tell us what they feel about having various nominations to non-executive membership? What impact would that also have on the independence and impartiality of the Trade Remedies Authority?

Chris Southworth: Ultimately, it is about having a rounded decision made by an independent body. That political oversight is critical—James is completely right. Ultimately, it is going to come down to a political decision whether a decision is made one way or the other. If you operate in an organisation like the World Trade Organisation, then all these voices come into play. It is incredibly important that the decisions prior to any engagement in a global environment are made in a good way that is inclusive. The role of Parliament is critical in that too.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Badenoch
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Q You don’t think that that would slow things down?

Chris Southworth: Trade is slow, it is technical, and it is difficult. It involves implications for people’s lives and for businesses of all shapes and sizes in every region. There isn’t a component of public or professional life that is not impacted by trade. It is important that everyone has their say, so that when the negotiations begin, the negotiators and all the stakeholders are confident on what those positions are. It is equally important that, during the negotiation when important points come up that are difficult and tricky, which they always are at that stage, there is also an opportunity to come back and say, “What do you think? Do you agree with this, because we are going to have to make a compromise?” That could mean an implication for Welsh farmers, businesses in the midlands, or local communities in Sheffield. It could mean all of those things.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Badenoch
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Q I am asking because I have had messages, particularly from farmers in my constituency, about remedies being very slow to be enacted. That is a real issue, so I would be looking for a very efficient remedies authority. I hear what you are saying, but I can also see a situation where the conversation goes on and on and no remedy comes forth. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Chris Southworth: Again, you need to come down with a political decision at some stage on whether or not it is right in terms of timing. The key point is: has there been proper consultation beforehand and has every stakeholder had the chance to voice their views in a proper structured format, not throughout the consultations, but in a proper structured way? That is the important point. Ultimately, there is always a sensibility around trade remedies, particularly if you are talking about things such as steel dumping. That has huge implications for a lot of people, particularly in geographies that tend to be vulnerable, so there is a difficult decision to be made. It is important that everyone has a chance to have their say about what that decision should be.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Badenoch
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Q Does anyone else want to come in on the make-up of the board, impartiality, timeliness, and so on?

Tony Burke: I think we would agree with everything that was said about the make-up of the board. It has to be wide-ranging and it has to have expertise. On the point you raised: when we put our evidence in from the Manufacturing Trade Remedies Alliance—industry and the unions—we wanted a system that worked. Don’t forget, we have not done this for a long, long time. We needed to make sure that we got it right. There were some folks’ voices saying, “Let’s have a fast-track. Look at America, it takes a long, long time”. We said, “No, if you do fast-track, you could get it wrong”. You need to have a system that works, step by step, but is widely consulted on, as has been said.

We may have problems in a particular industry, where we have to bring expertise in and we need to have people in that discussion at the remedies authority who know exactly what they are talking about and are able to demonstrate it. They can be very complex. When we look at the US system, it takes a very long time and moves very slowly. We do not want to rush it, but we need something that works and is as wide as possible. As I said earlier, I do not think impartiality comes into it, providing there was oversight from Parliament.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
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Q I understand there were 60,000 responses to the consultation. The trade White Paper was published the day after the consultation closed. I apologise if I am wrong, but I think you said earlier that you were quite comfortable with the process. Do you think it is practical and do you think the consultation feedback from the stakeholders has been taken into account?

Martin McTague: We believe it has been taken into account at this early stage, but a lot more consultation needs to take place. We have a position and we are developing that position on exactly how this will affect smaller businesses. At this stage, it is not a developed position.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
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Q So what exactly has been taken into account?

Martin McTague: It is only in conversations with officials that we believe that a lot of those consultations have been accepted, or at least understood. We are not at a position now where we are taking a firm line on this issue.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
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Q I am trying to understand in real terms what in the Bill has been replicated from the consultation?

Martin McTague: I can come back to you with concrete examples, but I do not have them at my fingertips.

Chris Southworth: No, I do not think it has been satisfactory at all, certainly for the international community, which is what I represent. When I asked the question of officials, “Who have you actually consulted?” I was told, “The USA and Japan.” That is completely inadequate in terms of the countries that the UK is trading with. Their voice—they also have SMEs, also in supply chains, also funding livelihood—is equally important. This is going to affect other people’s countries and communities. So it was completely inadequate and haphazard. If you happen to name a name, that person will get consulted. If that person happens to be missed, we do not know, and they are completely missed off the consultation. That is not a way to consult on trade. It is slapdash.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
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Q Do you think it is practical that the consultation finishes tonight and the Trade Bill is published tomorrow? Is that practical in terms of taking all views into account?

Chris Southworth: As I understand it from the explanatory notes and the Secretary of State’s speech on Second Reading, there is no intention of consulting within the Bill—that all comes later, whenever that is. It was not clear in any of the communications whether that would be a further Bill or a paper. It all sounds distinctly like it will be something informal, which I would argue is completely the wrong approach. Bear in mind that the Bill is the first opportunity for Government to tell the world, not just the UK, how they will create a free trade model that works for everyone. This is the moment to set out the stall on what that structure for engagement will be. It is all missing in the Bill. There is nothing in it.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
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If there is no new Trade Bill, those Henry VIII powers stay.

Chris Southworth: I go back to my point that, if I were living in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, the Yorkshire Dales—where I am from—Sheffield or the north, I would be concerned about where my voice is coming into this process. We are talking about rolling over the terms of 88 countries. That is a lot of countries, and they are not all EU. It is extremely unlikely to happen. I would want to have a say in that process, not to wait.

Tony Burke: When the Manufacturing Trade Remedies Alliance put forward its document, which it had worked considerably hard to produce over a long time, we were surprised at the speed at which the whole thing moved. There were areas that we had gone through in great detail to prepare.

As I have said, there was unanimity on things such as International Labour Organisation conventions, trade union representation and industry representation, and on some of the real technical detail as well, which we could not go into today. We would be happy to revisit that document. I understand that the other folk from the MTRA are giving evidence to a different Committee today, and I think they will say very much the same thing. We have no problem in going through it again and picking out some of the key issues from the point of view not just of trade unions but of industry.

Some trade associations on that body are very concerned about what could happen to their industries. They will be putting forward those points of view today. The speed at which it was done was far too fast. The view seemed to be that that was it, even though people had spent a lot of time putting the arguments together.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q In my constituency—I represent the steel town of Corby—trade remedies are not theoretical, but reality. Mr Burke, what do you think the impact would be of not having a Trade Remedies Authority in place on day one when we leave the European Union?

Tony Burke: The big danger is that, if we do not have one that works on day one, we could be subject to what we have already seen in the past few years. Steel has been subject to the most horrendous situation for the past two or three years—lots of jobs have been lost. The industry came together to try to make sure that it holds together, but without a trade remedies structure in place, the big fear is that we would be subject to the dumping of steel again, particularly from countries such as China, although I am not singling it out. That is one of the issues.

There are other constituencies where we talk to colleagues—MPs and others—and our members. The tyres industry, for instance, is very concerned about the dumping of cheap tyres on the market, which would undermine our premium brands and well-paid skilled jobs. We need something in place. Of course, as I have said, we have not had anything for 40 years and it will take some time to work through, but it is important to have a wider group of people who can push the arguments for various industries.

My fear, and the fear of our members in steel in Corby and other steel areas, is that, if we do not have trade remedies in place, we could be faced with horrendous dumping on the basis that, in respect of what is happening and what has been said, there is massive over-capacity. Steel in particular is being sold at cheaper rates than it costs to produce.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q I am grateful for that answer. One of the reasons that we could get to a much better place on steel was because politicians from across the political divide worked together and industry came together with the unions and the Government. That led to quite a lot of success, so were you and your members surprised that not all Members of this House voted to give the Bill a Second Reading? I ask that because further down the line, hon. Members who had genuine concerns could have tabled amendments to the Bill that potentially would have addressed the concerns, and let the House decide whether they were appropriate. Do you see any alternative to establishing the Trade Remedies Authority?

Tony Burke: You have to have something in place. Certainly, many of our members in the steel industry have followed this and are extremely concerned about what could happen and about market economy status being granted to China. Those are the key issues, and they will expect us to keep pushing the issues wherever we can to get this right. It was said earlier on. We do not want to just harp on steel—there are lots of other industries—but it is one area where we have had a really bad time. Many of our members in the steel industry understand the arguments and would expect us to come back to the issues again whenever we could.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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Q So they were pretty surprised that the Bill did not receive a unanimous Second Reading, with a view to amendments being tabled if hon. Members had individual concerns about things.

Tony Burke: We have not got to that situation directly in talking to our shop stewards and reps. We have been talking with our parliamentary colleagues who have steel in their constituencies, and our union reps are talking to them, so there would be concern.

Judith Cummins Portrait Judith Cummins
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Q We have heard a lot today about representation being vital to get the best deal and about gaining support from across society in terms of the Trade Bill and the trade deals. Tony Burke, in your view, is enough engagement in the formulation of trade policy with trade unions established by the Bill?

Tony Burke: No. We have been working with the Manufacturing Trade Remedies Alliance, which includes a number of trade associations—as I have said, steel, chemicals, fertilisers and so on—and I think there has been a coming together. We would have preferred a longer period, obviously, to go through this in detail—a longer period to argue for the things that we put forward in our document, which were generally accepted by everybody. To answer your question, the only way we are going to be able to make sure that the voice of working people is heard is to have representation on that body directly from the trade unions.

Chris Southworth: I would make an additional point. I completely support that point, but if there is one thing we have learned over the last year and a half, it is that we have to accept that there is generally a low understanding of trade, and trade itself has moved on significantly in the last 40 years; the world we live in today is not the same as it was 40 years ago, either. I think that extra diligence in relation to consultation and informing the public, and business for that matter—businesses are in the same position, surprising as that may sound—is a good idea.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I want to come back to what I think was a comment from James Ashton-Bell about what goes on elsewhere in the world, because actually a number of you have mentioned the United States and the way it handles both consultation on and scrutiny of trade agreements, but also the trade remedies approach. We will start with you, James, and perhaps others will chip in. Where, in addition to the United States, should we be looking for examples of good practice in setting up our Trade Remedies Authority?

James Ashton-Bell: Specifically when it comes to trade remedies, I think the most important place to start is: where have mistakes been made and where have processes not delivered outcomes, either in a timely way or in terms of the right kind of outcomes for the wider economy? I know there is a lot that officials have been looking at to learn what not to do from the EU, because everyone agrees that that system is not perfect. Much of that thinking has coloured some of what has gone into this Bill. There are aspects of the US system that do not work. No one has a system that we have found you can hold up as an absolutely perfect system. There are always going to be different balances that have to be made, but the fact that officials working on this have looked at the US, Canadian, EU, Japanese and Swiss systems means that they have certainly made a good effort to try to learn from others’ mistakes, and that is an excellent place to start.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Before I move on to the others, what are the mistakes to avoid?

James Ashton-Bell: Getting to some very technical areas that, as the Bill stands, would be covered by secondary legislation—so the devil will be in the detail—for me the central question is who ultimately makes decisions about whether to take action, where to take action and what is a proportionate action to take. The reason I say that is because taking action in a case of using trade remedies and defence is a highly political move and a highly economic move. It is never without controversy and, as I mentioned before, never with absolutely perfect information and data to make an objective decision.

Having very clear reporting structures and decision-making structures about who is the ultimate arbiter is key. Having lots of time for everyone to feed in as much information across the wider economy is key. So have as much information as you can at the beginning, but have a very clear process for using that information and have clear decision making to ensure that the outcome is someone’s responsibility and that they will be held accountable for it. It feeds into our wider industrial strategy; it is not just a trade issue.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
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Q Again, before I move on, is there an example of a mistake that you think we could learn from—something specific that you are prepared to be drawn on?

James Ashton-Bell: The mistakes are usually procedural. I am not going to pronounce on individual decisions because, as I said, they are never made without controversy, and for me to pronounce on another country’s individual trade remedy decisions would put me in a very difficult place. In terms of process, some have commented that in the American system, they can be very rushed and not all information or all stakeholders are taken into account. In other instances, such as with the EU, the process can be so long that they do not actually take action early enough to ensure that you can fix the problem when it is a problem. Procedure is absolutely core to most of the problems that occur when designing a system like this.

Chris Southworth: I have a difficult situation, which is a real one: the market status of China. That was very live last year or the year before. You have a classic situation there where we clearly want to be supportive to China as it comes on board as a global leader. China itself knows perfectly well that it wants to wind down steel production and that it is over-producing, but you cannot just wind down the Chinese economy overnight—that will take 10 years to do, as Europe did with its mountains in the past.

Where is the balance? In the meantime, the impact is on steel communities in the UK, across Europe and other parts of the world—we are not on our own—but who decides what that balance is? There is an implication either way on either the political relationship with China and supporting the Chinese economy, or local communities here in the UK. Someone has to come down and say, “Okay, this is where we are going to be.” That may potentially evolve: you may want to take several positions over a period of time so that you get to the end goal that you collectively want, but that must involve the people who will be impacted by those decisions.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Bearing in mind that the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill deals with the powers, what do you see in this Bill as a way of addressing the concerns that you have just raised?

Chris Southworth: I have already made the point, and broadly speaking I support the comments made here that you have to have something on day one. Do not be afraid to evolve that over time, but you have to have something in place that feels broadly right. Having listened to the conversations here, I would say that the stakeholder representation needs to be looked at, but the basic structure is there to work with—get on with it.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Tony, I take it from what you have said before that you agree.

Tony Burke: I agree with some of my comrades here. Everybody has got to look around the world at different systems. In Unite, we are focusing on the US system primarily because of our relationship with the United Steelworkers union in the States, which, as I have mentioned before in other areas, almost does this for a living. It has officials on the hill working on this all the time, and at times it is very time consuming and costly. So if there are many mistakes, they can either be rushed in the States, as has been said, or be very slow and very costly. We are looking for a system that works and that can be easily understood. I do not know whether you want to extend the debate into the market economy status for China. I will resist the temptation, but I have to say that that is a major issue for us in our industries.

Martin McTague: The only thing I would add is that in the States there is a temptation—there seems to be plenty of evidence that it happens—for the bigger, more concentrated industries to get dealt with more quickly. What you have got is that the more fragmented industries that are supplied by lots of smaller companies do not get dealt with effectively.

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q As I think you said, there is no perfect system today. You have acknowledged that there has been some attempt to go out and find out what best practice is, but what we should be doing is comparing with the system that we have got today. Today’s system probably has some challenges. It is EU commissioners and civil servants who decide. They send out questionnaires to get some of the interested parties’ involvement and input into their decision when we are faced with dumping or unfair trade practices. Surely the TRA represents an opportunity for us to do things better, and to design a system that will improve where we are today and, as you say, evolve over time. What we have today is not what you are describing as the minimum starting standard for our TRA as we move forward.

Tony Burke: The EU system was slow. At times, when we had the situation that I mentioned—going back to steel, when we had a crisis—we were quite concerned about the glacial pace of getting the whole thing moving and recognising what was happening. We are looking for the TRA in the UK to be, as I said, one that we can move forward on, and for decisions to be made that will assist companies and industries fairly quickly, without being too rushed—you need to take opportunities to listen to what people have got to say and take the best advice and evidence.

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Is there any comment from you, James and Chris?

James Ashton-Bell: My only comment would be, based on what is in the Bill, that it feels like there is a good framework to start with, and to work from that to create a better version of what the EU currently has, but much of whether or not that will be successful will be defined in secondary legislation, I believe. Based on what I have seen, we have a good starter for 10; we now need to build on it and ensure that more consultation responses on some of the more controversial issues are taken into account, and then translate that into secondary legislation.

Chris Southworth: I would support those comments. I would not be too quick to dismiss the EU; they are very difficult decisions to make across 27 countries. The decisions themselves are incredibly diverse, as well as the 27 countries being diverse. There are very difficult decisions when you are talking about these kinds of issues around trade remedies.

Gillian Keegan Portrait Gillian Keegan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I accept that. You talked about the farmers in Wales and the industries in Yorkshire and all the different parts of our country, and that is why it is complex, but add another 27 countries to that and, by definition, it gets more complex.

James Ashton-Bell: Correct.

Chris Southworth: I agree.

Martin McTague: The principle is that we want to get this thing up and running as quickly as possible—efficiently and possibly more efficiently—while taking into account some of the interests of smaller businesses. I think that that is clearly understood, and we support the points that James made earlier, but do we need it? Is it something that essentially has to be there on day one? I do not think there is any doubt.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I am heartened by what has been said about taking this as an opportunity to improve things. I think that that is absolutely right of both the TRA and the scrutiny. The EU is evolving its system to include social and environmental dumping in trade defence. Does the panel think that we should include those things in our TRA? If the EU is doing that and we are not, do we risk becoming the favoured dumping ground against Europe, which is adopting such measures?

Chris Southworth: Again, I think it all goes back to consultation and scrutiny. If people have an opportunity to look at the measures or issues properly, you are more likely to head those issues off. I agree that we do not want to become the second best option, or the optimal option for the wrong reasons, if you know what I mean. At the end of the day, these are people’s livelihoods, so it is very important, but it comes back to the same premise throughout this conversation: consultation, proper scrutiny across the stakeholders with Government and then coming to a conclusion as to what is right.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Specifically on the way in which the EU is introducing those environmental and social considerations into its assessment, I think the proposals elsewhere in the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill are talking about the powers of the Bill and clearly that will be more closely defined there, but in principle, are those considerations ones that you would like to see in any impact assessment that the Government are conducting on their trade remedies?

Chris Southworth: If we are going to create a free trade model that works for everyone, the answer is absolutely yes. There must be those considerations and there must be that input from the range of stakeholders. It has to be the right way forward. It is the only way forward, because what we definitely know is that what we have at the moment does not work. The backlash to that model is sufficient to make everybody sit up in their seats and say, “That doesn’t work, let’s try and be better.” The answer to your question is yes.

James Ashton-Bell: I agree with that. We do not have a defined position as an organisation on this, but I would say that we do have a defined position that trade, industrial strategy and your wider domestic agenda are inherently linked and should never be seen as running in parallel or separate. Given those concerns, we would say that you would never take a decision on anything to do with trade defences without taking into account every impact on your wider economy before making that choice.

Tony Burke: I agree. The question of taking the environment into account is important, but so is this question of social impact. When you look at what could happen with the dumping of goods and how that affects particular companies or industries that centre around certain areas, I think it is absolutely essential. As colleagues have said here, you have to take into account an industrial strategy that ensures that all regions and industries—particularly foundation industries—are protected as best as we can possibly do it. We definitely would need to include the environment, but social impact on localities and industries is very important.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Protect Mr Pursglove’s constituents.

Martin McTague: The only thing I can add to that is that I do not see anything in the Bill that prevents you from doing that. This is something that we would support in secondary legislation.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Just to follow up, when the consultation period on the Bill ended and the MTRA had submitted its evidence to the Government, how long was it before the Government published the Bill, and do you consider that the Government took time to properly consider the representations to the consultation that they received? Did that maintain trust in the process from industry bodies?

Tony Burke: Are you referring directly to the MTRA’s evidence, Mr Gardiner?

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Well—

Tony Burke: Yes. Well, as I said earlier on, one of the issues was that we have done a tremendous amount of work on this and lots of wide consultation. We came up with our proposals and we were quite surprised that almost overnight that was what we were going to do. What was the feeling? The industries represented on there were somewhat taken aback that it was done so quickly, and concerned—as would be expected—about whether their voices would be listened to. From the union’s point of view, that was very much the same. We thought that we had done one hell of a lot and put the arguments there very clearly, and obviously some of the key issues for us, such as ILO standards and employment protections, were not there. Hopefully we can try to revisit them and get them in at some point.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Just for clarity, the consultation finished on 6 November and the Bill was published on the 7 November. Is that right?

Tony Burke: I believe that was the case, but then I will stand corrected. I remember it all happening.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Mr Ashton-Bell, what are your comments on the way in which that would be perceived in terms of consultation being effective and the trust that Government were engendering?

James Ashton-Bell: The thing I can say is that the optics were not ideal.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

You should go into the diplomatic service.

James Ashton-Bell: We start from a position that much of what is in this Bill is a framework. The framework itself can be argued to a greater or lesser extent as non-controversial. The controversy starts arising when you start putting in the detail that is not currently in the Bill as it stands and, from our perspective, more importantly, what is not in the Bill at all and probably should be. Those are bigger questions.

On that basis, we know a number of conversations happened in the run-up to publishing this Bill, particularly around the issue of dumping. The elements that went into the Bill seemed to be the ones that were the least controversial and could be built around with more detail. Presentationally, was it the right thing to do? Maybe not, but I have more confidence that there is opportunity for the House to alter this legislation to fill in on the more controversial element.

Chris Southworth: My overall impression is twofold: too fast, and not enough consultation of the international business community, bearing in mind we are talking trade here. This is not public health in Yorkshire or somewhere. This is trade. We must be talking to our trading partners, who are just as perplexed and confused about what is going on over here as anybody else. I don’t think they were consulted enough, partly because of the speed and partly because there was not enough communication as to what the UK is trying to do. That would be my answer.

Martin McTague: The best way to answer this is that small business as a whole is completely split down the middle. If I speak to the average leave voter, they would say “Why don’t you get on with it?” This isn’t fast enough for them. The average remainer will consider it a recklessly rushed process. We are not reaching a conclusion—it depends on which perspective is looking at this. That is largely the view we are getting from small businesses.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

But however quickly you take the process, you would want—

Martin McTague: How quickly you take the process is either perceived as being far too fast or reckless.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I have at least three people still seeking to catch my eye and we have a maximum of eight minutes. If we can have short questions and short answers, and if a panellist does not feel they have anything to add to someone else’s answer, perhaps we can skip on, just to try and get as many people’s questions in as possible.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Chris, earlier on you made comments that said that if you were part of the devolved Governments, you would have concerns about their voices being heard and taken account of. Both the Scottish and Welsh Governments have expressed concerns that, at the moment, they are seeing the withholding of the legislative consent motion. When they are asked as to their representation on the Trade Remedies Authority, do you agree that would be a good starting point?

Chris Southworth: Overall—not just the Trade Remedies Authority—I would be concerned if I were in the devolved Administrations. There is specifically no opportunity for the devolved Administrations—or the regions, I have to say—to feed into decisions on trade. I would be very concerned about that, particularly in the devolved Administrations, where there are vulnerabilities on a whole range of different industries.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You then made recommendations of changes that could be made to the Bill as it stands, which would start to ease these concerns.

Chris Southworth: My point is back to James. What is missing in the Bill is clear direction on what the Government are going to do to create a new, more inclusive structure to include all the stakeholders. That is the central point to all of the content of the Bill and every other Bill relating to trade, going forward. We must do things differently and it is all missing. There is not even a reference to it. There are references to things that will be very agitating, such as Henry VIII powers—the ability to overrule. That, to the outside world, will look like an aggravating factor, I would have thought, when we need to do the opposite and be more inclusive.

On the world stage, I have to say, the UK Government are exemplary on this. We are pushing out the message very publicly, as the Secretary of State was doing in Argentina just before Christmas time at the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference, around inclusive trade—the need to do trade for everyone and to make it work for everyone. It was exemplary. We were the most vocal Government around it, actually, but back home, when you look at the Bill, you think “That doesn’t make sense.” That was my reaction to it.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Does anyone want to add anything about devolved Administrations?

James Ashton-Bell: I agree with that.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Obviously, we talked quite a lot about consultation and stakeholders, and I really appreciate that. Listening directly to you guys from very powerful organisations in our country is important for all of us parliamentarians. I need to understand exactly how important it is to consult with stakeholders in forming the Trade Bill or trade deals. What could be the impact for UK businesses in future if that is not done in the right way? I would like one quick line from each of you. Another quick question for Tony: does this Bill have the support of trade unions, yes or no?

Tony Burke: As it stands, no.

Chris Southworth: Look at what you have got today. That is what you get when you do not get proper consultation and involvement in trade. That is what we are dealing with right now: huge social division, division and disparity across the regions, industries vulnerable. You get all of that. That is what we are dealing with. That is what you have if you do not make change. That is why the Bill needs to demonstrate change.

James Ashton-Bell: The reason we have been calling for a very formalised form of consultation is twofold. One, there are many examples in history—many countries have designed very elaborate free trade agreements that businesses do not use because they were not designed with business in mind. That is a waste of everyone’s time and our negotiating effort.

The second reason is that we find in many instances, as we saw when trying to ratify CETA, through Belgium, or with TTIP, if you do not have an inclusive process that is incredibly formalised and elaborate, you actually lose public support. Having the right advocates to push the deal across the line is something that is good for the economy. It needs to be grounded in fact to ensure that it is good, and also something that has consensus and that we can actually stand behind.

Tony Burke: Again, I am in danger of agreeing with a lot of folks in what they are saying at the moment. Regarding what has just been said, if you look at CETA and TTIP, there was massive opposition from across the spectrum. It is important that we get this right, and inclusivity is the key. We had no involvement in discussions with regard to the UK in those trade agreements and I think the same thing could happen again if we are not careful. We cannot just go casting around trying to pick one off the shelf. This is going to be a very complex issue, so everybody needs to be on board.

Martin McTague: We have regarded this as an enabling piece of legislation. It is a framework. I can say that the area where TTIP really came alive for small businesses was when they introduced the small business chapter, which meant the real concerns of small businesses had a basis on which they could discuss those issues and get them properly grounded.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Matt Western, very quickly. We have got literally two minutes left.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you, Chair. I have a quick question to Mr Ashton-Bell. Yesterday, Carolyn Fairbairn made a very good speech, I believe. She was talking about the CBI quite rightly seeking a good Brexit. I hate to put you on the spot but I am sure you have had time to reflect on it. In your view, or the CBI’s view, does the Bill as it stands deliver a good Brexit? Or, what is it missing, other than what you have said so far this morning?

James Ashton-Bell: I do not believe the Bill as a vehicle can deliver a good Brexit in any scenario. There are too many Bills and pieces of legislation that are necessary to deliver a good Brexit. This is one piece of the puzzle. There is a lot of detail that is not in here. Our position is not necessarily that that has to be in here. There are other pieces, like the consultation issue, that we believe need to be formalised in legislation. That could happen at a later date.

Our concern is that to deliver a good Brexit we are going to have so many pieces of legislation in a very truncated period of time. A lot of pressure will be put on Parliament to rush through legislation without properly scrutinising it, or legislation will not make it through. Either way, we get a bad outcome. Our question comes back to the one I started with. If there are essential elements for your trade policy, if they are not in this Bill, why not, because you have it in front of the House anyway?

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Order. That brings us to the end of our time allotted to the Committee to ask questions. I thank our witnesses on behalf of the Committee for their evidence, in particular Mr Burke, for the tortuous journey he had getting here.

11:25
The Chair adjourned the Committee without Question put (Standing Order No. 88).
Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.

Trade Bill (Second sitting)

Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 23rd January 2018

(6 years, 5 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2017-19 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 23 January 2018 - (23 Jan 2018)
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairs: Philip Davies, Joan Ryan, † James Gray
† Badenoch, Mrs Kemi (Saffron Walden) (Con)
Bardell, Hannah (Livingston) (SNP)
† Brown, Alan (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
† Cummins, Judith (Bradford South) (Lab)
† Esterson, Bill (Sefton Central) (Lab)
† Gardiner, Barry (Brent North) (Lab)
† Hands, Greg (Minister for Trade Policy)
† Hughes, Eddie (Walsall North) (Con)
† Keegan, Gillian (Chichester) (Con)
† McMorrin, Anna (Cardiff North) (Lab)
† Prisk, Mr Mark (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)
† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)
† Rashid, Faisal (Warrington South) (Lab)
† Smith, Nick (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
† Stewart, Iain (Milton Keynes South) (Con)
† Vickers, Martin (Cleethorpes) (Con)
† Western, Matt (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
† Whittaker, Craig (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
† Wood, Mike (Dudley South) (Con)
Kenneth Fox, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Witnesses
Dr Lorand Bartels, Reader in International Law, University of Cambridge, and Senior Counsel, Linklaters
Dr Holger Hestermeyer, King’s College London
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP
Dr Brigid Fowler, Senior Researcher, Hansard Society
Professor Alan Winters, Director, UK Trade Policy Observatory
Michael Clancy, Law Society of Scotland
George Peretz QC, Barrister, Monckton Chambers
Tom Reynolds, Commercial and Public Affairs Director, British Ceramic Confederation
Gareth Stace, Director, UK Steel
Cliff Stevenson, Specialist Adviser, MTRA
Anastassia Beliakova, Head of Trade Policy, British Chambers of Commerce
Stephen Jones, Chief Executive Officer, UK Finance
William Bain, Policy Adviser—Europe and International, British Retail Consortium
Edward Bowles, Managing Director, Group Public Affairs, Standard Chartered Bank
Public Bill Committee
Tuesday 23 January 2018
(Afternoon)
[James Gray in the Chair]
Trade Bill
14:00
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

For those of you who do not know, I am James Gray. I am a stand-in for Joan Ryan, who unfortunately has, I think, a family problem of one sort or another. I shall be in the Chair for this afternoon’s proceedings. I mentioned earlier on that, contrary to normal practice, I voted on Second Reading in favour of the Bill, but I do not think that that affects my ability to be dispassionate. A Chair who had not voted on the Bill could not be found, so that is why I am in the Chair—I hope that is all right. With that, let us have the witnesses in, please.

Examination of Witnesses

Dr Lorand Bartels, Dr Holger Hestermeyer, Jude Kirton-Darling and Dr Brigid Fowler gave evidence.

14:01
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Q85 May I welcome our four witnesses to this evidence session of the Trade Bill Committee? I thank all four of you for taking the time and trouble to come and give evidence, which is enormously useful. What you say today will affect the discussion of the Bill as we go forward, so it is well worth the effort of coming here to give us evidence. For the sake of the record, would you be kind enough to tell us who you are, starting from my left?

Dr Fowler: I am Brigid Fowler, from the Hansard Society.

Jude Kirton-Darling: I am Jude Kirton-Darling, a Labour Member of the European Parliament for the north-east of England, and a member of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade.

Dr Hestermeyer: I am Holger Hestermeyer, the Shell reader in international dispute resolution at King’s College London.

Dr Bartels: I am Lorand Bartels, a reader in international law at the University of Cambridge, and senior counsel at Linklaters.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I do not know whether you have a thought to do so, or would like to do so, but you would be more than welcome to make a short introductory statement if you wish. If not, we will move straight on to questions, starting with Barry Gardiner.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I suppose what I would like to try to get out of this session is whether you feel that any lacunae have been created by Brexit in our system, whether there is appropriate scrutiny and transparency, and whether you feel that there are shortcomings in the Bill that need to be filled. May I start by asking the panel, perhaps beginning with Dr Hestermeyer, for examples of deals that will be the same, and of deals that may be different? Are they simply roll-over deals or are they substantively new, distinct legal entities?

Dr Hestermeyer: The first thing to note—in fact, it is even in the Government’s comments on the Bill—is that the deals will be technically new international agreements, so they will be technically separate. As to their content, first, there are the technical details that will need to be changed—for example, rules of origin, which define when a product benefits from a trade deal. Those are quantities, so they will say, “50% of a car has to be from the EU.” That, of course, no longer fits; it will have to be the UK, and the numbers will have to be changed too, because a UK car is substantially now 44% UK-content. We will not benefit from the deals if we do not change the numbers. Those are technical issues, but they are vital.

There are some deals that are structurally so different that, quite frankly, I wonder whether we really want to reproduce them one-on-one. For example, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are in the European economic area—as was recently explained, in the sidecar to the single market. Do we really want to reproduce those deals by statutory instrument? It seems peculiar to me that we would want that. Turkey, for example, is in a customs union with the European Union. Do we want a customs union with the European Union? We might say yes or no, but I wonder whether a statutory instrument is really the way to take those decisions. Switzerland has a whole number of agreements, some of them linked by what is called a guillotine clause, free movement. Do we want that? That probably could not be reproduced even if we did want it, so that is also a no.

You might say, “All this is insignificant,” but if you add up the numbers, the EEA is 2% of UK trade, according to the Government’s assessment of the Bill; Turkey is 1.3% and Switzerland is 3.1%. That amounts to roughly half the trade we are talking about, or half the 15% that the Government assessment arrived at for those agreements. I do not think that will be rolled over, because I am not sure we would want it, quite apart from the technical issues that will arise and the question of whether other states and our partners will say, “We also want something.”

Dr Bartels: I would rather focus on the implementation aspects. Obviously, the question of which agreements the Government choose to roll over is a political decision; it depends on negotiations and so on. My reading of the Bill is that it talks about the implementation of those agreements. What is important there is to identify the scope of the agreements that can then be implemented.

One point of interest is that the Bill extends to agreements that have been signed but not ratified as of Brexit day. I think we can safely say that that is likely to be the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Canada, the agreement with Japan and others as well; and if the EU agreement is provisionally applied at the same time, some might think that they are in force and ratified. In fact, I found the language in some of the documents around this area blurred the point a little bit, but there is a fundamental difference in international law between a signed and provisionally applied agreement and a ratified agreement. The Bill is quite extensive when it comes to signed agreements.

There are other points to do with the definition of the sorts of agreements that are covered here, such as a free trade agreement, which is here defined to include a free trade agreement and a customs union agreement by reference to World Trade Organisation definitions. Then, interestingly, we have in clause 2(2)(b),

“an international agreement that mainly relates to trade, other than a free trade agreement.”

I do not know whether you would like me to say anything about that now. It could be quite broad. I noticed one idea in some of the amendments, which was that it could be further defined as including a strategic partnership agreement, the language used for the framework agreement sitting on top of CETA, and mutual recognition agreements.

I must say that I think the amendment is very comprehensive; for a start, the strategic partnership agreement is not even tangentially about trade, so it could not really be described as an agreement about trade. The point of it is political and human rights conditionality and so on. In that sense, the definition is over-inclusive. It is also under-inclusive, in the sense that mutual recognition agreements are only one type of agreement relating to trade that one might legitimately want to include here. For instance, one would also have customs co-operation agreements as an obvious agreement that should be rolled over and implemented.

The broader point is that, despite what I said about the strategic partnership agreement, it is an outlier in this respect. A lot of agreements have to do with trade. Environmental agreements have trade aspects; the Montreal protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer is all about banning trade in ozone-depleting substances. The convention on international trade in endangered species is all about trade in endangered species.

Therefore, I think the definition is a little bit unclear. One could say, “Well, it’s agreements that just liberalise trade,” but that is a problem too, because FTAs do not just liberalise trade. They have intellectual property provisions, which might arguably in some way promote trade, but more likely investment. Certainly, they are not the first thing that you think about when thinking about a trade liberalising agreement. There are provisions in the FTAs in addition to intellectual property: competition law, labour and environmental protection provisions are in all the modern EU agreements that we have talked about. Essentially, this gives the Government the ability to implement labour standards provisions, which include not exactly sanctions, but obligations that need to be performed. Frankly, these two Bills strike me as very old-fashioned; they do not seem up to date with the reality of modern trade agreements.

Jude Kirton-Darling: I will follow on directly from that last thought, from my experience inside the European Parliament as an MEP, scrutinising trade policy at EU level. Of course, our MEPs have done that job for the last few decades. From our perspective, what really is missing from the Bill is the parliamentary scrutiny dimension. No-one on the panel has mentioned that so far. In terms of process, compared with the parliamentary scrutiny powers that British MEPs have today in the European Parliament, the Bill is an enormous step back in democratic oversight of trade agreements.

To add to what has already been said from a legal perspective about what these trade deals are, any kind of roll-over is likely to come up against the offensive interests of our trading partners. We have already seen that what was supposed to be quite a technical question of the division of tariff-rate quotas going to the World Trade Organisation has turned into an enormous political issue, with countries who supposedly are our friends and allies defending very actively their offensive interests in relation to tariff-rate quotas.

Once we start opening trade deals up to technical tinkering, whether that is a number here or a point there, our trading counterparts will also use that opportunity to try to get a bit more leeway for their interests. It is likely that these deals will be very different at the end of the process from what we have at the beginning. That parliamentary scrutiny—the role of MPs in ensuring that there is democratic oversight—is absolutely crucial but entirely missing from the legislation.

Dr Fowler: If the question is which of these agreements will change significantly, my answer is, we do not know that. Other people who are much more expert than me in the details of trade agreements would have better sight of that, but as someone who looks at what is coming to and through the Westminster Parliament, we simply do not know at the moment. On that basis, I make two points.

First, Parliament needs to be happy that it has procedures in place to deal with agreements that might be changed significantly. Even the Government have indicated that that is a possibility—they use language about substantive change in the Bill documents. Secondly is the point about transparency and possibly some kind of reporting function, which does not have to go into the Bill; it could be done through other means. However, I feel that, given the number of these agreements that have to be dealt with in the amount of time that we are talking about, some kind of regular reporting transparency about exactly what is going on would be useful to Parliament.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Thank you; that was very useful. It is not necessary for all four members of the panel to answer all the questions. You may want to target them, because we have half an hour left and we want to make the best use of our time.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q May I ask Dr Bartels about the remedies section, in part 2 of the Bill? In your view, how does the legal framework for remedies, particularly if a remedies authority is established, compare with others abroad? What are the strengths and weaknesses?

Dr Bartels: One of the features of the package that you have been presented with is a split between fiscal and non-fiscal measures that can be adopted. I am not entirely convinced that that is a very sensible division of tasks. For instance, because of that division, what seems to be missing is the ability to impose quotas—not tariff-rate quotas but quantity quotas—as safeguard measures, which is permissible under WTO law and is done. Because of the split, nothing on those measures is set out in this agreement, and the other agreement only deals with duties, so you are limited to tariff-rate quotas. That is one overall observation. I could say other things about the treatment of developing countries in the other Bill, which I find under-complex, to use a German term that my colleague is fond of.

More directly to your question—again, this links to what I am saying about the split—the major issue when it comes to the Trade Remedies Authority here is that we do not have it in a context that enables appeals. I know that in the other Bill there is a reference to the possibility of an appeals mechanism. The United States is very big on appeals—it is very elaborate. Of course, one can disagree with the way in which the United States conducts itself—we have all paid some attention to the Bombardier dispute and the United States’ interpretation of its WTO obligations—but at least formally speaking there is a sequence of decision making that includes a court, appeals and so on established there, and we do not have that here. It is very, let us say, basic at this point.

On the rest of it, reading this together with the other Bill, I would say in general terms it looks fairly standard. There are some choices you can make when setting up a Trade Remedies Authority, such as the duties that can be imposed and whether you go for a lesser duty rule or not—we seem to be doing that here. One can make a political choice on that, but in general terms, other than the point on appeals of decisions, and connected with that the relationship between the authority and the Secretary of State, which here is extremely close and in other systems might be a little more arm’s length, I think the detail of what the authority can do is fairly standard.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does anyone want to add to that?

Jude Kirton-Darling: I would add one thing. I heard the evidence this morning in which there was quite a lot of discussion of the EU trade defence instruments and the EU system, and some of it was a little bit out of date. During the steel crisis, quite a number of reforms came in to modernise and speed up trade defence inside the EU, mainly led by the European Parliament. That is one of the key elements missing from the Bills: the role of Parliament in terms of oversight and scrutiny.

If I think about the role of MEPs when it comes to trade defence instrument questions, we have the right to veto proposed duties and to scrutinise all of the Commission’s proposals, we have access to all of the documents in relation to investigations, and we can demand closed-door meetings with Commission officials to really get into the detail of those investigations. It seems to me that lots of that scrutiny is missing from the proposals on the table. That scrutiny gives a quality to the process of ensuring balanced trade defence instruments that are effective.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q So you do not think that having Question Time and a Select Committee on trade is adequate.

Jude Kirton-Darling: There is a clear role for stronger scrutiny. Inside the legislation, there is no obligation on the Secretary of State or the new Trade Remedies Authority to engage directly with Parliament through, for example, a specific Committee of Parliament. In future, that could be the International Trade Committee—an amendment could be tabled to ensure that link and that scrutiny—but at the moment that is not in the proposals. It is a missing link, if you think about what we already benefit from in the current system, of which we are a member.

I would hate to give the impression that what we have is perfect; that is not what I am trying to say. Today, in the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, MEPs have voted on a modernisation package to try to rectify some of the weaknesses in the EU’s regime. If you are thinking about what to improve on, our system is not perfect, but, at the same time, MEPs—your counterparts—have a clear role in the process, which is entirely missing from the proposals tabled.

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin (Cardiff North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q May I address this question to Dr Bartels? The Government suggest, to justify the absence of any process for parliamentary oversight, transparency and scrutiny, that trade negotiations need to be done confidentially and under some secrecy. What is your feeling about that?

Dr Bartels: One can look at what is covered in modern trade agreements according to two poles, and then there is a sort of meeting in the middle. On one side, you have the pure market access issues, where you are reducing duties—you are liberalising trade—in certain economic sectors. Those sectors are going to be affected negatively and are not going to be happy about it, because there is competition that they were not used to. To do that, you need to be able to trade sectors off against one another. There is a reason for confidentiality with that traditional sort of trade negotiation. Not everybody would agree—you might say that someone whose job is at risk should get a right to know what is being negotiated—but there is at least a traditional and strong argument there for confidentiality.

On the other side, you have purely regulatory issues, such as the question of what you think in your system of the precautionary principle for health and safety. That sort of principle would normally be dealt with through the normal democratic process, and I cannot see any reason why that should be changed and negotiators should be given the ability to haggle that away, particularly if they are doing that in secret. In the middle, you have rules that are regulatory but arguably are also protectionist, so the trade negotiators would say, “We should be able to negotiate those away in secrecy.” It is hard to know where to draw the line, but it is certainly useful to conceive of what is in a trade agreement according to those two poles.

None of that means that this should be limited purely to the Executive, even when there is confidentiality on market access. Many other countries have systems where parliamentarians have some rights to see what is being negotiated and to be kept apprised of negotiations as they go. The European Union, for instance, is extremely advanced when it comes to that; there are strict limitations in terms of going into and coming out of the room, no phones are allowed, and so on. The US Congress has similar arrangements. There is a palette of options to enable parliamentary involvement, even within the framework of confidentiality. I am not sure that the Bill is the right place to address that sort of issue, but there is certainly nothing like that in the Bill.

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Some claim that non-tariff barriers to trade, such as regulations on standards, are protectionist. What is your opinion? Do you believe that is true?

Dr Bartels: It is true, but it is generally more true in certain sectors. It is true, for instance, in sanitary and phytosanitary standards. It is usually not the standards themselves that are protectionist. There are examples of standards, such as the beef hormone standards, that I can say are protectionist because WTO cases have said they are protectionist—I just need to cite Geneva on those—but it is often done by having overly complicated conformity assessment requirements, and so on. There is definitely room for regulations that purport to be there simply to protect the public also to be protectionist. Usually, you have both aspects in the same regulation. But even in that sort of situation, I still think that the regulatory dimension is sufficient for there to be at least some type of domestic scrutiny over haggling that away.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Q Do others have a view on that?

Dr Hestermeyer: There are certainly examples of standards being used only for protectionist purposes, but it is far more common for standards that one side sets to be perceived as protectionist by the other. Let us take hormone beef. There is real concern on the part of a lot of European consumers that hormone beef is not healthy. There is no direct scientific evidence to show that that is true, but the concern is nevertheless there. So the standard reflects the democratic choice of the populace—whether we think it is adequate or not. That is important to see. With any standard set, some sides will say, “This is protectionism,” and it is also rhetoric to attack the standard.

Jude Kirton-Darling: I guess the last point missing from that is that if we look at where trade agreements and trade policy have been controversial in recent years, it is when the perception is that standards held very dearly by the public for exactly those reasons are perceived to be negotiated away behind closed doors, with only a certain number of vested interests having access to the process. That is one more reason why having an open process, with parliamentary scrutiny and engagement, gives credibility to any final agreement, which at the end of the day has to have public support, after the negotiations. You build in societal acceptance through the process by engaging Parliament in an active way.

Dr Fowler: I would very much endorse that. If it is the case that some degree of secrecy or privacy is an advantage in one respect, there is probably a trade-off in terms of not being able to have that societal buy-in that might be wanted at the end of the process. There is a trade-off and losses if it is all done in private.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Quite a bit has been said, not just in this sitting but in the sitting earlier today, on the issue of checks and balances, and scrutiny. Would the witnesses accept that all of these agreements initially, when they were brought into being in the first place, went through an impact assessment process and that, on ratification, they were scrutinised thoroughly by the scrutiny Committees in both Houses? Also, the 2010 CRAG process—under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010—allows Parliament to pray against a treaty and indefinitely deny ratification, including bringing it to a debate. Do the witnesses recognise that and think it is sufficient?

Dr Bartels: I will kick off. Yes, I would agree with that, but I would also say that what is important about the Bill is that it gives the Government the power to change those agreements. They are, legally, new agreements, and that is recognised specifically in the Bill and in the explanatory memorandum, where no bones are made about saying that new obligations might be undertaken, so it would not be the same agreement that is subject to scrutiny. What is important here is to work out whether there are any limits on the Government’s ability to undertake new agreements—or new obligations in what are named as existing agreements—and implement those obligations, and if they do that, whether that is then sufficiently being scrutinised by Parliament.

Dr Hestermeyer: I would like to go back to my first answer and take as an example the Turkey agreement. I do not think that we would want the kind of customs union that Turkey has, but currently the Henry VIII power would allow implementation of any agreement that we then make with Turkey, even if in the end it looked completely different. That is the first problem with this scrutiny process.

The second problem, as Lorand identified at the beginning, is that some agreements have been signed but not ratified, so the scrutiny part of ratification has not yet happened. They have not been fully scrutinised.

The third element is that I do not think that the Ponsonby rule, as qualified, is sufficient because, first, it allows only delay and not a straight up-or-down vote; and secondly, it requires scheduling of an actual debate and vote. With Government control of parliamentary timetables, there is no guarantee that it cannot be indefinitely delayed. Even theoretically, therefore, that is not possible.

Jude Kirton-Darling: I fully agree with previous speakers.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

In which case, you may just nod.

Dr Fowler: I would agree with that. In terms of existing scrutiny through the European scrutiny system, one point is that it is imperfect. As we know, the European Scrutiny Committee here spends a lot of time trying to get time on the Floor of the House and trying to ensure that it sees documents in time and to arrange things so that it can have a meaningful say. Then there is the problem of the agreements that will not have been fully through the European scrutiny process before they come back again. Then there are the CRAGA problems—it seems that no one quite knows how the CRAGA provisions would work. That may be because no one in either House has ever tried to do anything under them, but it seems to me that part of this process ought to be that agreements are going to come before Parliament that it might want to do something about, and merely as a minimalist position—

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I am sorry to interrupt. May I just say that there is a gentleman in the gallery who may not take photographs? Please carry on.

Dr Fowler: If you wanted to take a minimalist view, merely as a bit of constitutional housekeeping, it seems to me that there is scope for at least clarifying how the CRAGA provisions would be used, before possibly going into strengthening the powers.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid (Warrington South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q May I ask Dr Fowler to expand on a point raised in the Hansard Society paper, “Taking Back Control”, about the issues surrounding Government control of parliamentary time, and any implications this is likely to have for both the trade deals covered in this Bill—including the government procurement agreement membership—and the delegated powers that it grants, especially with regard to the negative procedure?

Dr Fowler: As you will know, under the negative procedure, Parliament has the power to pray against an instrument. In order to do that, first, Members need to use the early-day motion procedure, which is obscure and many Members do not even know about. Secondly, and more importantly, there is the issue of trying to get time on the Floor of the House. There have been cases where Members have wished to pray against a negative instrument and time has not been granted on the Floor of the House within the scrutiny period, so it has simply been impossible to annul a negative instrument before it came into force. That is one problem with the current system.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q So is it fair to say that the Government have the ability to control debate and thus limit—or even totally deny—parliamentary scrutiny of the deals or the secondary legislation?

Dr Fowler: Inasmuch as the Trade Bill provides for use of the negative procedure, yes, that would be fair. I am sure there would not necessarily be any wish to do that on the part of any Government, but as the procedures currently stand, Back Benchers cannot be sure that they can get time on the Floor of the House if they want it.

Judith Cummins Portrait Judith Cummins (Bradford South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q We have heard a lot today about the importance of societal acceptance in the scrutiny process, and Jude Kirton-Darling certainly explained the scrutiny process for trade agreements currently in place in the EU and the European Parliament. Dr Fowler, could you explain the current parliamentary framework for the signature, ratification and implementation of trade agreements in the UK?

Dr Fowler: At the moment that procedure happens through the European scrutiny system because of the EU’s competence to conduct trade policy. The main instrument is the so-called scrutiny reserve, under which the Government deposits relevant documents with the European Scrutiny Committees in both Houses and they scrutinise them. The relevant Minister is not supposed to sign up to things in the EU Council if the relevant documents are still held under scrutiny. That works every time a new set of documents is tabled along the process.

The system can be quite effective but there is a difficulty about timing, and getting time on the Floor of the House. There is a difficulty if something has to move quickly at EU level, and then the Government quite often uses what is called the scrutiny override where it just says, “We had to go ahead with this.” Then there is also the difficulty about trying to schedule appropriate debates in Committee or on the Floor of the House.

Jude Kirton-Darling: My only addition would be that currently, one of our frustrations as MEPs is about what happens when some things that we have scrutinised heavily at European level, pass to the national level. We see the level of scrutiny in the German Parliament, in the Belgian Parliament, in Scandinavian Parliaments, where there are very detailed scrutiny processes—often going on at the same time as we are scrutinising at European level, so we get feedback from those Parliaments during the process—and we do not feel, in many cases, that same process from Westminster. So, regardless of what happens in terms of Brexit, it is one of the ways in which Westminster could do more to scrutinise trade in any case, and that would be a benefit for everybody.

Dr Hestermeyer: Just as a reminder, the scrutiny override was used for CETA. To compare that, under German law, for example, Parliament gets involved very early on. There was a change in the constitution and then an additional statute was passed, so Parliament gets involved very early on and can make binding statements for the Government, which will then be taken into account by the Government also in the Council. That way, there is a large impact of parliamentary statements in governmental positions, because in the end, the Government will have to defend measures in the Council.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Ms Kirton-Darling, you referred to the scrutiny process in, say, Scandinavian Parliaments and the feedback to Brussels and so on. That may be very detailed but, of course, when it gets back to Brussels, Sweden or wherever is just one of 28. Their input in the great scheme of things, eventually, is rather watered down. Wouldn’t you accept the fact that, once Brexit is achieved, the UK, with the scrutiny via the Select Committee and the possible annulment through Parliament and so on, is more powerful than the voice we have at the moment?

Jude Kirton-Darling: Unfortunately, no.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thought you might say that.

Jude Kirton-Darling: Globally, our voice will be very much reduced by Brexit. Currently, we negotiate together with our neighbouring countries and that collective weight is leveraged in negotiations with trading partners, which, unfortunately, we will lose as a result of Brexit. The benefit of that parliamentary engagement from the national level from other countries creates that societal acceptance, in many cases, of European trade deals. We saw that where there is poor parliamentary engagement, societal acceptance is called into question. The biggest example—it may be a very small region of Europe—was the case of Wallonia and the CETA negotiations, where, through the powers they have as a regional Parliament, they were able, even if they were a small region in Europe, to leverage quite significant improvements in the CETA deal to address some of the concerns they had about that deal. That is where the Parliament is working effectively to really ensure they scrutinise trade deals.

After Brexit there will be a case, if there are improved scrutiny powers included in this Bill and in the accompanying measures toward this Bill, that could mean that MPs would be able to be far more effective in terms of trade policy. My basic answer is that we will be weaker post Brexit because we lose our place and we will become, in effect, a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker when it comes to international trade negotiations.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q That is a judgment in terms of the Brexit argument rather than the benefits of the Trade Bill.

Dr Hestermeyer: On a technical-legal point on mixed trade agreements, all trade agreements except for Kosovo, if I am not mistaken, were mixed trade agreements. The Council decides by common accord, which means that the UK alone could prevent agreement.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Of a watered-down version.

Dr Hestermeyer: There might be political pressures but I am not a politician; I am just a lawyer, so on a legal position. Obviously, that is the past; that is not the future.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Jude, earlier on, you mentioned tariff-rate quotas and the fact that the whole negotiating process is potentially back up for grabs between the UK, EU countries and the third countries. Going forward, as part of these negotiations, as a politician I would want to know which third parties are advising the Government and what the correct asks are. What impact assessment has been made of getting the desired result and any other trade-off that might be associated with that? How will we make sure that the correct people—the politicians, I would suggest—have approved or ratified the deal? What needs to be done or what amendments need to be made to the Bill to allow such a transparent process and that level of scrutiny?

Jude Kirton-Darling: In my experience of the European Parliament’s level of scrutiny, what we have at European level legally is quite limited. Inside the treaty we have a right to accept or veto trade deals at the end of the negotiations. That is included in the Bill, but the second element which we have which is not included in the Bill, which we use much more effectively, is that we have the right to be kept informed throughout the negotiations. That is a legal obligation inside the European treaties. That effectively then gives Members of the European Parliament a hook on which is placed the whole of parliamentary scrutiny at a European level.

You could amend the Trade Bill to include a hook in the same way, which would then allow you to develop some kind of working statute which could evolve over time. These processes evolve over time—improve, I hope, over time—with more transparency as trust is built between institutions. However, you need that legal hook at the beginning. Within the European Parliament, as a result of the hook, we have monitoring groups on every single negotiation that the EU is undertaking and established trade agreements. We have monitoring groups which meet behind closed doors on a regular basis with the chief negotiators, in which MEPs can scrutinise and ask any question. We have access to the majority of documents. During the negotiations you will have heard about the TTIP reading room. We had access to all the EU side of the negotiation documents. Crucially, in that reading room, we also had the read-outs from the European negotiating team of the process of each round of negotiations. To put it into context, you had the legal text of the EU negotiating position and, through the read-out, you could see where the room for manoeuvre was with the US side of the negotiations. Those documents give you the capacity then really to question.

None Portrait The Chair
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Thank you. At quarter to three, I will stop you talking, even if you are mid-sentence.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Brigid Fowler, can you describe the procedure that you would recommend?

Dr Fowler: First, Parliament needs to be very clear whether it is happy that the Bill only covers the replicated agreement. You might want to decide that you are happier with these agreements and then do something stronger for the completely new agreements that the UK will be negotiating. I believe that is something that the Secretary of State has indicated he would be open to, but I suggest that Parliament might want to get that nailed down in some way at this stage.

As I have mentioned before, the main issues are the weakness of the CRAGA procedure at the moment—

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q What alternative do you recommend?

Dr Fowler: For example, you might simply want to have an affirmative motion, a motion for resolution, rather than the negative power that is applicable at the moment. That might be one option that the Government need to bring a motion for affirmative resolution. That is one possibility. Even more important is the preceding stage, which is processes around the signature of the new agreements, particularly where they might have been changed significantly from the existing EU ones. Again, there are things that Parliament could do about transparency, possibly having an approval motion, or recreating some kind of scrutiny reserve, possibly through a Committee. There are all sorts of institutional options, but I think the House might want to look at a set of processes around signature that the House might want to look at.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We have a few seconds—I take the opportunity to thank our panel. You have been extremely clear and interesting and will greatly add to Members’ understanding of the Bill. Thank you very much for your evidence. Perhaps if you would like to shuffle off in one direction, the next lot will shuffle in.

Examination of Witnesses

Professor Alan Winters, Michael Clancy and George Peretz gave evidence.

14:45
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Q May I welcome our second panel of the afternoon? Thank you very much to all three of you for kindly giving up your time to give evidence to Parliament this afternoon. I am very much looking forward to hearing what you have to say. To begin with, would you introduce yourselves for the record?

Michael Clancy: Thank you, Mr Chairman. My name is Michael Clancy. I am the director of law reform at the Law Society of Scotland.

George Peretz: I am George Peretz. I am a QC practising for Monckton Chambers in London on EU and international and all sorts of other bits of law.

Professor Winters: I am Alan Winters, professor of economics at the University of Sussex and director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We have 45 mins to hear from you, starting with Barry Gardiner.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Perhaps I could start by asking Professor Winters about the economic partnership agreements that the EU has with developing countries. They are in the list of those that the Government are seeking to replicate. Do you believe that replicating those agreements and creating EU-UK equivalence is the best way forward in our engagement with the developing world? Are they models that the economic partnership agreements countries themselves would wish to see replicated?

Professor Winters: In general, they have been a pretty poor piece of policy. As far as the UK is concerned, I would suggest that we might want to consider rolling them over for two or three years, but I would hope that that two or three-year period was then used to try to devise a more satisfactory regime. They encourage distortions in the developing countries. The developing countries are put through the agony of trying to negotiate together, which is very costly and time-absorbing for them, and rather ineffective. What we need to do is to try to find a much simpler way of allowing developing countries access to the British market than the current EPAs.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Given that there is this renegotiation going on, do you feel that those countries might seek to use the occasion as a means of bettering the current agreement in some way? Or would they feel—if they are being told, “You will not get a trade agreement unless you do this quickly”—that they are being bullied into doing it against their will?

Professor Winters: By and large, countries find it very difficult to resist the offer of tariff-free access to a market. If they were put in a position where they were told it was the equivalent of the EPA or nothing indefinitely, my guess is that most would shrug and accept the EPA, but given one quarter of a chance, they would want to talk to us about a more reasonable and satisfactory—and in the end more efficient—process of market access.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Professor Winters, we have before us in part 2 a broad legal framework for a future remedies authority. In your view, is it robust enough? If not, what should we be thinking about amending?

Professor Winters: The Trade Remedies Authority is something we clearly need. Without seeing a lot more details about exactly how it operated, I would not want to say whether it is robust, but I would like to emphasise three things about it. One is, I understand, Government policy; I think the others are not.

The so-called lesser duty rule is important for safeguards and anti-dumping. That is essentially the rule that says the duty you put on goods that are allegedly dumped is the lower of the amount of dumping—the dumping or injury margin—required to make good the British industry. That is a good rule to have.

The two things I am less clear are there at the moment are, first, a very strong degree of transparency. Its operations need to be, with the exception of commercial confidence, pretty much out in the open. The second is that experience through decades in nearly every country suggests that these trade remedies are captured by producer interests. They are complex, they are triggered by the producers complaining that they cannot manage or that they are being cheated, and the whole process essentially favours them.

The really important thing is that, exactly like the House of Commons, you need an opposition. I would urge that we try to supplement the Trade Remedies Authority with an officially sanctioned and resourced group to represent the consumer interest, to do the analysis and actually have the right of audience at the TRA to make the case.

George Peretz: If I may add to that, of course the trade remedies provisions are spread across this Bill and the customs Bill. If one looks at the customs Bill to find out where the appeal mechanism is—as a barrister, my first thoughts go to what the appropriate appeal mechanism is—all you find is a power of the Secretary of State to make appropriate regulations.

It is my personal view that that is somewhat unsatisfactory. There are a number of important questions that arise about appeals, one of which is very important, and that is what the appropriate standard of review is. Is it a merits review, which enables a specialist appeal court to correct the decision maker on questions of fact as well as questions of law, or is it simply a judicial review mechanism, where all the court is doing is saying, “Is this a reasonable decision, whether it is right or wrong?”? It is a very important decision to make and it seems to me that that is one that ought to be made by Parliament in primary legislation and not by the Secretary of State or the Executive in a statutory instrument. That is a decision for you.

The appeals mechanism is important. I said slightly flippantly that it was because I am a barrister, but it is the experience of all regulatory processes that what actually happens at the regulatory stage is often very conditioned and influenced by the form of an appeal. Any sensible regulator will, during the process, have their eye on what the appeal route is, who can appeal and what the level of scrutiny of their decision is going to be.

If you have a very robust form of appeal mechanism, which is open to both parties— the complaining industry but also a range of interest groups whose interests might be affected by the imposition of duty—and if they are allowed routes to appeal that will encourage the regulator, in this case the TRA, to take robust decisions. That is robust in the sense of fully reasoned decisions that will sustain detailed scrutiny, to ensure that all parties are properly heard so that they are fully aware of where the objections to what they are proposing to do are and can properly evaluate them. You get better decision making out of all of that.

I sent the secretary to this Committee a copy of a briefing paper I did for the UK Trade Forum website, which is there if any of you want to read it. It expands a bit on that point but I would emphasise the appeal mechanism. There are other issues about the trade remedies. I have probably spoken for long enough but if people have other questions they could ask about them.

Michael Clancy: I read your blog; it is very good. The other thing that I would say is that the tenure should be made more independent by having term limits. That is quite important in reinforcing independence and impartiality. We have had experience in Scotland of the whole system of judicial appointments being reworked for temporary sheriffs because they did not have a stated term and were subject to the whim of the appointing Ministers. That would be my addition to this discussion.

George Peretz: The provisions for the appointment of members of the Trade Remedies Authority are very similar to the provisions for appointments to the Competition and Markets Authority, which as anyone who has watched the press this morning knows takes very important decisions about the economy. There is a difference with the Trade Remedies Authority, and the argument why you might need a more constraining set of rules governing whom the Secretary of State might appoint. At the moment the Secretary of State appoints the majority and the rest are staff members. There may be an argument for a more constraining set of rules, particularly if the Trade Remedies Authority is—as the customs Bill contemplates—itself given the remit of applying a wide range of economic interest tests as the trade remedies body. That means that even if the TRA accepts that there is a legal basis for opposing a trade remedy, then as a matter of economic interest to the UK it is able to say, “We are not going to do so here because, for example, the consumer interest outweighs the interest of the particular producers affected.”

That seems to me to be a political position: it is balancing the interests of jobs in a particular area of the country against the interests of consumers across the country, to put it crudely. If the TRA is, as the customs Bill contemplates, itself going to be taking that kind of decision, then there is a case for saying that its composition ought to be balanced by statute and that it ought to reflect a variety of different perspectives. In that sense its role is much more political than that of the Competition and Markets Authority.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We have half an hour left. Incidentally, Mr Peretz’s evidence is available in written format in the Committee Room.

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q The Government claim that the process of replicating the trade agreements to which we are currently party as EU member states would be a simple roll-over process. Do you foresee any complications?

Professor Winters: Yes, I’m afraid that I do see complications of a technical nature and, in a sense, of a political nature as well. The technical complications concern rules of origin to begin with. Every trade agreement essentially has rules of origin that determine whether a good qualifies for zero-tariff entry. A typical rule of origin says that 50% of the value must be contributed from the country claiming the duty-free access. If we take a good that is exported to Korea that is made in the UK but with a 40% input from the EU and 30% input from the USA, it gets into Korea tariff-free because the UK plus the EU27 contribution is at 70% larger than the rule of origin requires. If we are outside and by ourselves we have only 30% of the content—the value of that good—and we would not get into Korea tariff-free if the Koreans applied the same rule.

Equally, there are cases coming the other way of goods that are exported to the EU where, for instance, Korea could export a good directly into the EU27 because it has a free trade agreement for a good produced in Korea. But if they send it into the UK and we insert it into something that we then seek to send to the EU, then it might not get in because Korean content will not count towards the UK content to meet the EU’s rule of origin.

What do you do about all this? You essentially have to do something called diagonal cumulation. Korea, the UK and the EU essentially have to agree that each of them retreat from its rule of origin the content of the other two as the defining origin. In that specific case, it would restore the status quo. That needs to be negotiated with the Koreans and the EU.

Other places where we have technical problems are in the splitting up of tariff-rate quotas. For instance, there are tariff-rate quotas in the agreement with Canada: that is an agreement to import a particular volume of goods tariff-free. This has to be settled on an EU28 basis, and now it has to be divided between the UK and the EU27. On occasions, there are clauses of these agreements that refer back to a body of law in the parties. In the financial services agreement with Korea, there is a reference to accepting goods into the Korean market that were introduced into the European market without asking any further questions as long as they are consistent with existing law and do not entail a modification of existing law. That existing law—if that clause makes any sense at all—was law when the agreement was signed; it is EU law. If we tried to introduce even an equivalent law, we would have to argue the case that it needs to be treated as such for us to get access to Korea for financial services. Those are the technical reasons why there are serious problems.

Politically, we need a deal. If the transition is handled in any way that is fairly straightforward—although George has a proposal that is complicated but perhaps gets around it—it is possible that the transition will allow Korean goods into the UK tariff-free, but not UK goods into Korea tariff-free. Therefore, we really need a deal, and if you really need a deal, that is not the time to be negotiating.

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q To follow up quickly, perhaps addressing Michael Clancy directly, what role do you believe the devolved Governments would have in trade negotiation prior to agreements being concluded? Do you think the Bill sets out suitable frameworks within which matters of devolved competence can be represented?

Michael Clancy: Under the Scotland Act 1998, paragraph 7 of schedule 5, international agreements, including trade agreements, are not within the competence of the Scottish Parliament. In that sense there is no formal role in agreeing international agreements. That being said, one of the things we have sought to promote throughout this process, with the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, this Bill and associated measures, is that there should be some form of whole-of-governance conversation about getting things right. As we know, this Bill will affect the competence of Scottish Ministers and allow orders to be made that may amend, for instance, Acts of the Scottish Parliament, and measures from Wales and Northern Ireland too.

There is clearly an issue about how the Sewel convention or legislative consent convention is interpreted in respect of that. Under devolution guidance note 10, any proposals in UK Parliament legislation that seek to alter the legislative competence of the Parliament or of Scottish Ministers require the consent of the Parliament. That also applies to the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Therefore, there is an issue. Today in the Scottish Parliament there is a debate about legislative consent in respect of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, and the Finance and Constitution Committee of the Scottish Parliament is currently consulting on the legislative consent memorandum on this Bill, where the Scottish Government have indicated that they would not recommend that the Parliament pass it.

It is a matter of political debate and discussion, and something that I know both the Scottish and UK Governments have in their sights in the concordat they are thinking about. That includes a framework for dealing with trade matters. There is a role, but I do not know it yet, because neither the Scottish nor the UK Government have told us what it is.

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I would like to ask Professor Winters a question about part 3 of the Bill, which concerns trade information. Would you agree that the information that this Bill enables will help the Government to shape their export support programme? Are there any additional powers that you would like to see this part of the Bill contain?

Professor Winters: Information is very important, not least in my trade, for analysing what goes on. The case for collecting reasonable amounts of information, as long as it is cheap to do so, is very strong indeed, subject to the standard confidentiality requirements. I confess, on reading the Bill it did not strike me that there were obvious things that were missing, but I would not want to assert that I read it sufficiently carefully to say that nothing is missing. It is important that the Government have the right to collect information, and that information should be made as widely available as possible. The Government clearly need to make policy, but there needs to be public debate, too; it is not just the Government who need to discuss policy issues. I did not interpret this as being part of the Bill, but in general, information other than private or commercially confidential information really should be made available to a wide community of people to enable them to analyse policy.

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Do you have any concerns about the practicalities of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs operating the system, as envisaged by the Bill?

Professor Winters: I am not sure that I can comment on the practicalities. They certainly want a large amount of information. My general rule would be that that needs to be information that firms collect anyway in the normal course of their business, and that it should be a simple matter to transfer it to HMRC.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Professor Winters, given what you discuss in the UKTPO paper with the example of South Korea, do you think it is fair to say that what the Government are presenting as bilateral discussions are actually trilateral discussions?

Professor Winters: Yes. I gave the example of rules of origin and tariff-rate quotas. Those very clearly have to be negotiated with the EU, because the EU is intimately involved in them, and they have to be negotiated with the partner. We cannot just arrive in Korea and say, “Here it is. We don’t want to talk about it.” They very clearly have trilateral dimensions, which I guess need to be sequenced and taken seriously.

Remember that there is a further wrinkle: these are going to be new trade agreements and we are going to have to notify them to the WTO. Although the WTO procedure for reviewing regional trading arrangements does not require us to ask permission, the WTO secretariat will make a good deal of information available to members, and other members may wish to clarify things to discuss and even, ultimately, to dispute. It is actually somewhat broader than trilateral, but you cannot avoid a tripartite discussion on quite a lot of aspects.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. According to the Queen’s Speech last June, the Bill is meant to set out the legislative framework for our independent trade policy. Do you believe that it establishes a proper framework to deliver what was promised?

Professor Winters: I would not hold myself up as an authority on exactly what was promised, but it does not deliver a satisfactory framework for negotiating new trade agreements. There are many different models, but experience from around the world suggests that one needs a good deal of consultation, input and legislative oversight of trade agreements. You cannot have a position where Parliament can unpick a trade agreement that has been concluded. If Parliament claimed that right, no one would negotiate with us. That means that Parliament and the devolved Administrations need to have an important role in setting mandates, and there need to be consultation and information during the process. Civil society would certainly claim that it, too, ought to be consulted, and I would advocate that, to the extent that one can generate one, there should be a discussion publicly.

Trade policy comes along in treaties. It is intrusive. It affects people’s livelihoods. It is a very good thing that we are talking about trade policy now in a way that we have not for decades—since before the EU existed, in fact.

George Peretz: I would add as a footnote that one of the best short things I have seen written about this is a piece by Stephen Harper, the former Prime Minister of Canada. He is not generally known as a politician who always wanted to do everything by consensus, but it is simply an explanation of how the Canadian side prepared itself for the CETA negotiations. It very much emphasises the need to consult with everybody in Canada, to bring the provinces together as well as all industry, trade unions, all the political parties and other actors to try to get as much consensus as possible on what Canada was trying to achieve at the outset of the process, before it started. It is a very good piece from somebody whose perspective on it is interesting.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Picking up on both what Professor Winters said about not unpicking—Parliament should not be able to unpick a trade agreement—and what Mr Peretz said about Canada, Mr Clancy, once the UK Government, rather than the EU, set international trade agreements in place, what would be the implications if the devolved Administrations had a consent reserve and could implement some form of veto on internationally agreed obligations? How do you get that whole-of-governance approach where the consensus Mr Peretz was talking about is achieved so we know that what is agreed can ultimately be delivered without introducing an ex post facto power of veto that would stop it being implemented?

Michael Clancy: That is a very difficult question to answer without getting into uncomfortably hot waters.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

You could write to the Committee.

Michael Clancy: Let’s give it a shot, shall we? The important thing is that the UK Government are the negotiator of these international agreements. Parliament is the body that then ratifies agreements made by the sovereign power, exercised by Government. Therefore, in that sense, it is quite difficult to see how the devolved Parliaments would be able to exercise any form of consent reserve in respect of the making of an agreement and the ratification of an agreement.

The issue is that the parliamentary oversight of the agreement is deficient in this place and it is even more restrained when it comes to the devolved legislatures. That is the issue I would like people to focus on. Clearly something needs to be done to enhance oversight here. Earlier, we heard Brigid Fowler explain that the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 provisions are inadequate. Why are they inadequate? Because they have only got this perpetualisation of the 21-day period, and this Bill does not allow for any form of implementation order other than a negative procedure order. Therefore, there is an issue about that.

The read across to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and the sifting procedure that the Procedure Committee advanced and had accepted into the Bill—Mr Walker’s amendment last week or the week before—raises issues about what the relationship is between orders under this Bill and those under the EUWB. Why does this Bill amend the EUWB? Why not have amendments brought forward for that Bill, reflecting this Bill? I am sure that parliamentary draftspeople have an amour propre in respect of such things, but an ordinary individual—a rather rustic lawyer like myself—is not going to catch it immediately. These are the issues we ought to look at: parliamentary oversight, extending across these islands, and how we write something that attains the intention of Parliament.

If I might just cross over, I do not think the Bill is meant to implement new agreements; it is meant to transpose existing agreements. That is quite an important facet to dwell on. Although, if one scoots to the explanatory notes, one sees in paragraph 44 that there may be

“technical changes to the agreement”

and in paragraph 53 it says:

“It may also be necessary to substantively amend the text”

of the provisions. The question, therefore, is what is an existing agreement and how far does it have to be changed for it to change from being an existing agreement to a different agreement. That is a question that I do not care to essay on at the moment.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We are grateful for that.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I have a general question for the panel. Listening to what people have said about agreements and given the need that we have to maintain existing trade relationships with 70-plus partners and, I think, 40-plus agreements in general, do you think the Government need to change their approach fundamentally and, if so, how?

George Peretz: If I might go first, one can see the difficulty. It is a commonplace of the legislation on Brexit generally that there is a lot to do in a very short space of time. There is certainly a case for doing things by statutory instrument that ordinarily one might be very reluctant to see done in that way, simply because of the process of time and the time it takes to get primary legislation through.

We were discussing a few minutes ago general policy in relation to how Parliament should scrutinise future trade negotiations. It is entirely a fair point to say that the Bill is not about that. There may well be a case for the Government to produce a Bill about that, but that is a different question. This Bill is not about that, but about the roll-over.

We have touched on the difficulties. You have a number of difficulties in scope: what an international trade agreement is goes beyond trade and customs agreements. As I think Holger Hestermeyer pointed out, technically the definition includes the EEA agreement and the Turkey customs union agreement. If you think the Government have rather wide powers to implement the EEA agreement—one assumes the Government have no intention of using it that way—it is quite a wide power to give them.

There are questions about scope and about whether negative procedure is right, and there is the question Michael touched on about what is an existing agreement. The cynic in me as a lawyer tends to say from general experience that if you go to the other party to a contract and say, “I need to change this contract,” the normal response of a well-informed and well-advised counterparty is, “Well, yes, but let’s take the opportunity to get some other things in it.” So things are often not that simple. You may have quite wide and important changes being made, but I do not think there is a right legal answer. It is a question for you to think about as to whether this is an appropriate power to give the Government, given the need to do things quickly.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Kemi, are you content?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Badenoch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Yes, unless anyone has anything further to add.

Michael Clancy: We do not have enough time—there are 430-odd days between now and 29 March 2019. Trying to get through primary legislation, if we were to scrap this and go for another Bill, would be problematic to say the least. The intergovernmental conference in October is really the defining factor that we have to aim at. Then there are all these orders, which are going to be put through. If one waits until this Bill gets the Royal Assent before the orders start to be consulted on, there are difficulties about that. I am afraid that I would be for looking to keep this Bill and to move it along and see what improvements can be made to it to make it a much better and more robust piece of legislation.

Professor Winters: May I comment? In principle—I am not a lawyer and cannot really comment on how one can do this—essentially there is the very short-term, immediate problem of all these things that have to be done, but we do not want that to define the long-term by default. I think we need to have a very clear understanding from the body politic in general. The trade policy is an important instrument for a sovereign country to operate. It can be done well or it can be done badly, and we do need to continue to review it and go back to some of these things, so that even if we have to patch something up in the near future, which as near as dammit is the status quo, that should not say it is therefore closed forever. We need to go with our partners and say, “We need to reopen this.”

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Let us be crisp, Bill Esterson.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q George Peretz, you were talking before about the Trade Remedies Authority. Can I bring you back to that? I believe that the Government are conducting a review into which trade offensive measures can be rolled over or passed forward—having heard that last piece of evidence, I am not sure what description to use. Can you describe the challenges and the consequences if some of those are not used by us when we are outside the EU?

George Peretz: Not all WTO law is clear, but what is pretty clear is that we could not simply automatically carry over existing trade remedies imposed by the EU and say, “These remedies will apply to the UK now that it is a separate WTO jurisdiction”—if I can use that term loosely. We cannot do that for one very simply reason: it is a condition of all trade remedies that there is a domestic injury. A domestic injury is defined, and the UK is obviously not the same as the EU. It is potentially an issue that applies the other way around, incidentally, but that it a problem for the EU rather than for us.

As far as I understand it, the Department for International Trade is feeling its way to dealing with this problem. As a first step, it is asking industries that benefit from an existing trade remedy to set out why they think it should continue and to explain what the domestic injury is. There is probably also a need for the UK to discuss with the European Commission what the position is. After all, in its investigation of all these remedies, the Commission will have built up a case file that will include quite a lot of information about what the injury is, some of which will be pinned down geographically. It will be able to say that that is evidence of an injury in the UK. Perhaps that could be used to justify carrying on the remedy after we have left the EU, but it would have to be the judgment of the new Trade Remedies Authority whether that evidence was good enough to withstand domestic scrutiny and appeals and, ultimately, a possible WTO challenge. There is a very difficult set of issues there, which will be a challenge for DIT and the TRA.

Craig Whittaker Portrait Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I want to go back to the scrutiny of the Bill. My understanding of what some people call the Henry VIII powers, for an SI or a DL, is that there is provision in both of those processes, whether they are negative or affirmative, to raise an objection for debate on the Floor of the House of Commons. My question is where is that process flawed?

George Peretz: I do not claim to be a great expert in parliamentary procedure, and I am not sure that I can add very much to what Brigid Fowler said about that—she is an expert on parliamentary procedure.

Plainly, there is an opportunity to challenge a statutory instrument that uses the negative resolution procedure, but clearly it is less likely to be challenged—just look at the statistics—than a piece of primary legislation, because one fundamental point about any statutory instrument is that the vote is simply an all-or-nothing vote on the instrument. There is no ability to have the primary legislation to say, “We agree with most of this clause but we don’t like clause 5, therefore we would like to amend that.” It is take-it-or-leave-it. The problem with a lot of this is that you will be told that the clock is running and you need to decide very quickly what to do.

Professor Winters: There is very little time, so be realistic about what the cost of a challenge would be and the pressures that that would generate.

Michael Clancy: It is the balance between speed and scrutiny—that is the whole point. To get that right is quite difficult with a negative or indeed an affirmative resolution procedure. Although theoretically each of these could be debated, I think it would be very difficult to get each of these debated. There simply is not enough time to do that—we are told that there are between 800 and 1,000 orders in relation to the EUWB. I do not know how many of them might be here—63 existing trade treaties, maybe more, and other things as well. That is the difficulty.

What are the defects? The defects are that we have an alternative procedure of super-affirmative if we need extra time to look at something—that is where the sift comes in. If the sift identifies a particular order as being important, it might then get better scrutiny, and better scrutiny might mean the affirmative resolution procedure on a super-affirmative basis. We do not know that the sift applies to these orders because the sift is not mentioned in this Bill. Will it be? Are you going to propose amendments? Is the Government going to take that forward to this Bill? That is another story for another day perhaps.

Then there is the issue—I think it is in one of the Hansard Society papers—of the difficulty, in fact the incapability, of amending these orders. They have to be taken back by the Minister and re-presented. That induces time and delay, and we are running out time and inducing delay.

Craig Whittaker Portrait Craig Whittaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I want to come back on that. What you all say is that there are elements of truth in everything, but the reality is, yes, we have a huge amount to get through, and there is a place for the SI process to get some of these through quickly. My point to you is that, although there is a huge amount made of these so-called Henry VIII powers, this Parliament does actually have overall scrutiny control of these trade Bills if we choose to take it.

Michael Clancy: That is true, but the ultimate test is overturning the order. We saw that the last time an order was overturned in the other place—it resulted in the Strathclyde review because it was such an outrage, so we have to be careful about that, because it may have more political impact than we would imagine.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We are having trouble with time and scrutiny as well. We have only two minutes left for Matt Western.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Professor Winters, this Bill is supposed to be about the roll-over of pre-existing agreements. If that is the case, why is it necessary to include the Henry VIII powers?

Professor Winters: Because the roll-over is not straightforward. Maybe you can say that this is an implicit recognition that it is not entirely straightforward and that there will have to be changes. Some might be purely technical, but some are clearly going to be substantive.

It is precisely because it is difficult, contentious and requires negotiations, that the Henry VIII powers are so important, because it is the Minister, their designated authority or delegate who will make those decisions.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Can you give an example of a substantive?

Professor Winters: The division of tariff-rate quota on cheese into Canada, or which bit of law financial services access to Korea will refer to. There are, I have no doubt, plenty of others.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Can I ask that of the others?

George Peretz: I am not sure I have much to add to that very complete answer to the question.

Does it require Henry VIII powers? It probably does require them because you have to amend primary legislation. The questions about the degree of scrutiny and so on, are, I think, questions for you, but the need for a pretty fast procedure to amend our law to deal with what will quite often be technical points that involve changes seems fairly clear.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q We have heard that Wallonia has got a veto. The devolved nations do not have a veto in this. Indeed the UK Government can make provision in devolved competencies. If you were a Scottish or Welsh Minister, would you recommend withholding a legislative consent motion unless this Bill was amended?

Michael Clancy: When I get elected?

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With that, can I thank all three of our witnesses for their extremely interesting evidence? You have covered a lot of ground in a short space of time. We are most grateful to you all for that.

Examination of Witnesses

Tom Reynolds, Gareth Stace and Cliff Stevenson gave evidence.

15:31
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I have a couple of quick admin points. I understand that there may be a Division in the House at 3.45 pm. If there is, I will suspend the Committee for 15 minutes until 4 o’clock and we will add an extra 15 minutes at the end to make up for it.

Mr Stace, I gather that you have to give evidence to the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill Committee and you may therefore have to leave this session early. Is that right?

Gareth Stace: That is correct. If that were possible, I would be grateful.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

It is possible. Just tip us a wink when you have to go and we will say goodbye.

Gareth Stace: I think one of your Clerks is going to escort me.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Perfect. I call Barry Gardiner. [Interruption.] Well, failing that, I call Mark Prisk.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

No, the Opposition failed, so we will give the Government a try. I call Mark Prisk.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you, Mr Gray. I have asked other witnesses about the remedies regime, and I am interested in your views. In a way, you all represent industries that are familiar with this challenge. “Remedies” sounds arcane, but it is really about all the challenges a locality may face with dumping in particular business sectors. What would you want to see in an effective remedies authority, and what would need to change in the Bill to deliver that?

Gareth Stace: Let me start with what would need to change in the Bill. We would like to see more detail in the Bill. The Bill sets out powers to create an independent arm’s length authority—the Trade Remedies Authority—to advise the Secretary of State, but there is no detail. There is little detail of the powers that it might have or of the scope of its remit. I am sure that will come in secondary legislation or after that, but as you quite rightly said, industries that are or have been subject to dumping and unfair trade practices are quite nervous about what is going to happen in the UK, and the more detail we have, the better. That is why at this stage we are quite nervous about what might or might not come out down the line.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q We know that there is not a lot of detail—it is a framework—but is there something specific, such as an appeals process, that you want to be teased out in our deliberations?

Gareth Stace: Yes, an appeals process—there is no detail in the Bill—is not even set out as: “The appeals process will be this, this and this.” We do not even know what the basis of appeals might be, because we do not know how the TRA will define subsidy, injury and dumping. We do not even have something to base that on.

Tom Reynolds: It is clear that we need a TRA, and it is certainly welcome that the Bill establishes one. I want to rebut a point made by an earlier witness, who said that trade remedies are invariably captured by producer interests. That certainly has not been the experience in the European system. I am sure that Gareth agrees that that was apparent in the steel crisis—the trade remedy system was slow to react to the producer interest.

We have to read the Bill alongside the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill. My feeling is that the rules for the TRA, which are set out in that other Bill, tip the balance the other way, against the producer interest. There are areas where that Bill and the way that it works with this Bill can be improved, which I would be happy to explore with the Committee.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Is that specifically the national interest?

Tom Reynolds: There are really four points. The public interest test and the economic interest test is of concern because, as Gareth has already pointed out, the lack of detail means it could operate in any number of ways. Our fear is that it might include an over-simplistic cost-benefit analysis that appears very seductive in its indication that the benefit for producers may be outweighed by the damage to the consumers, when it does not show the full story and perhaps the long-term impact to the consumer that removal of a competitive environment for domestic producers creates if the trade remedies are insufficient to keep production here in the UK.

A big concern for ceramics—the country of concern that is dumping into the European Union at the moment is China—is how you calculate the dumping margin in instances where the domestic price cannot be used because it is subject to such state distortion. That detail is crucial to the effectiveness of the trade remedies system.

There are other issues, such as the lesser duty rule—it was touched on earlier. For the proper operation of the lesser duty rule, we would need to see the detail and how you calculate injury. That is crucial. Pushing all of this into the long grass just adds a lot of uncertainty and concern for producers.

Cliff Stevenson: Because the Bill is simply setting up a framework for the TRA and not really having anything more substantive than that, there are only small points that you might look at, but there are some important points. For example, the composition of the members of the TRA is critical because trade remedies is a highly political area of policy where there are very different views. Some see trade remedies as purely protectionist and would abolish them completely, and some see trade remedies as an essential competition policy-type tool to correct multilateral distortions.

I am in the second group. I believe that, in the absence of multilateral competition rules, trade remedies are the only thing we have that allows state distortions and other unfair practices to be addressed. Within the EU, we do not need anti-dumping or anti-subsidies law because we have really good competition and state aid law.

What we want from this legislation—you have to see the two Bills together—is a coherent, robust system that could redress those problems. In terms of this Bill, the composition of the members is very important to look at because, if all the members thought trade remedies were protectionist, we would never get any trade remedies through—or all members might believe that trade remedies were essential. You would want to ensure that there is some balance in there.

There are some other smaller issues that could be significant. For example, regarding the provision that the TRA should report to Parliament annually, I think there could be a little bit more detail on what it might report on, so that, if the TRA was being biased one way or the other, by being obliged to provide certain statistics, such as number of cases opened, measures adopted and so on, it could be assessed.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Picking up on your last point, Mr Stevenson, in the EU, the Commission is obliged to report to the European Parliament on trade events, so there would be an annual production of just such statistics. There is a lacuna in the Bill in that there is no provision to make such a report to Parliament and to aid parliamentary scrutiny on trade remedies in that way. Is that something that you and the trade remedies alliance would seek to redress? Would you like to see introduced in this Bill some way in which a report ought to be made—an annual report perhaps—to Parliament?

Cliff Stevenson: Yes, what would definitely be of importance is to have a substantial report submitted to Parliament on an annual basis. In the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, there is a provision on reporting. There is already a proposal for there to be an annual report. The EU anti-dumping regulation is quite specific about what the European Commission must report to the European Parliament in terms of the statistics it must provide. A little more detail ensuring that certain things were provided in this report would be useful.

Tom Reynolds: The question about Parliament’s ongoing role with the Trade Remedies Authority is an interesting one, but so is Parliament’s role in setting up the rules for the system. The point made by Jude Kirton-Darling earlier on about the level of involvement of MEPs in scrutinising and offering amendments on, for instance, the new anti-dumping methodology and the TDI modernisation, which was mentioned, has been integral in improving that legislation from the Commission’s original proposals. I would be more comfortable if there was a more rigorous approach for parliamentarians to get involved in the setting of the rules for the system as well.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Can you describe what you think the authority should be comprised of? Who do you think should be on it?

Gareth Stace: Do you mean the board?

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes.

Gareth Stace: The board needs to represent interests. From my point of view, I would like to see someone from industry and someone from the trade unions on that board to provide that balance, clarity and expertise as well. That could be set out in primary legislation. It is not there now.

Tom Reynolds: One of the most successful acts of Parliament in setting up a non-departmental public body over the years has been the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which stipulates that the Secretary of State, in making appointments to the commission—now the HSE board—must consult with organisations for three of the members. There could be representatives of the employers, and three of the representatives could be from the trade unions. That sort of model might lend itself well to the establishment of the Trade Remedies Authority and the appointments made to the non-exec board.

Gareth Stace: However, we would not want anything that you would add to it that would then create more work and delay measures in place or delay the investigations that would take place by the authority.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q That neatly moves me on to another question. Can you describe what is at stake if we do not get this right after we come out of the EU? If you have specific examples, that would be helpful.

Gareth Stace: There is a whole range of “if we don’t get this right”. If we get this very wrong, we become the dumping ground—not just in Europe, but for the rest of the world. Think of the steel sector, which thrives on free, liberalised trade. That is what we are. Over a third of all steel produced travels across borders globally.

Also, something crucial, in particular for the steel sector, is that in 1994 we agreed as a sector with Governments to abolish all customs tariffs for steel for developed countries. There are no tariffs. So when you think about us coming out of the EU, whatever agreement or not is put in place, we as steel will not be subject to customs tariffs. That is not an issue for us—non-tariff barriers are an issue for us, but not tariff barriers. That enabled us to be even more liberalised in terms of trade. What supports that? Trade remedies support that: they are the safety valve that enables free trade to take place. Sometimes the debate turns the other way round, as if trade remedies were there to provide protectionism. We would say that if there were not a strong trade remedies regime in the UK or anywhere else in the world then you would see a rise in protectionism, with weak trade remedies.

There is a whole range of things that could go wrong. When the investigations take place in the end, will they find that there is no injury or dumping for whatever reason, even if there is? If they do find that there has been injury or dumping, what are the tariff levels that are set? Are they high enough to stop the illegal trade in the UK—the dumped steel that is against WTO rules? If the endgame is not that those tariffs are high enough, then we have a problem.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Sure. Is anything different in ceramics?

Tom Reynolds: We have a very similar experience. We are a sector that thrives on international trade: we export over half a billion pounds’ worth of products each year. We are not protectionist. However, as the Government have rightly pointed out, free trade does not mean trade without rules, and unfortunately some of our trading partners do not play by those rules. Examples from our sector include cases involving tiles and tableware. In the case of tiles, imports rose from a fairly stable level of around £4 million worth of tiles a year from China up to 2004, and rocketed in less than a decade to over £30 million worth of imports from China. If you were to look at volume, it was an even sharper rise.

The European Union introduced anti-dumping measures in 2011, which were not enormous—they are not the 230% tariffs that the United States has looked at. They were between 13% for co-operating companies in China, up to just short of 70% for non-co-operating companies. The introduction of those measures allowed our UK industry to stabilise and invest. As a result, employment has gone up by 40% in the sector, with even further boosts to the supply chain as well. All that could be at risk if we get things wrong.

It is worth noting that in 2011 the UK Government voted against the tiles measures in Council. That was understandable because the UK’s role within the European Union was as a liberal counterweight across the 28 member states. As we forge an independent trade policy we have a different role, but some of the most experienced civil servants and experts are steeped in that heritage of the UK being the liberal counterweight within the European Union. That is why we come back to this point about a non-exec board being a watchdog, ensuring a balanced system in the UK. It is an integral part of getting things right.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Do you think that needs to be appointed independently from the Secretary of State to achieve that?

Tom Reynolds: It is not something that the BCC or the Manufacturing Trade Remedies Alliance has made a submission on; it is something that we would have to consider, and maybe we can write to the Committee.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q The membership of the Trade Remedies Authority, which, according to the Trade Bill, is entirely at the discretion of the Secretary of State: do you think it is appropriate and effective? How does the proposed TRA compare to similar bodies in other countries?

Cliff Stevenson: Obviously, the wording is not effective at the moment in terms of ensuring that there is a balanced composition of those members. If you look elsewhere and compare, the closest major trade remedy regime to the UK’s proposed system is Australia’s. It has a separate anti-dumping commission that works in a similar way to how the Trade Remedies Authority would work, but there is a big difference in the sense that it is headed up by one person, an anti-dumping commissioner: there is not a committee or a group of members in the way that is proposed for the UK.

One concern I slightly have with this is that it is an extra level of decision making. There is no detail on how the members might make a decision—whether they would vote if they disagreed—and that could hold up investigations, which are always subject to very severe time limits given the amount of work that has to be done.

In the US and Canada, for example, there are examples of independent bodies such as the United States International Trade Commission, which does the injury determination for the cases. It is a completely independent body that has six commissioners who vote at the end of the investigation. If there is a positive finding of injury and three out of six vote in favour, it will be an affirmative determination. In that case, where there is a quasi-judicial system where it is completely separate and not under any political control, there are these commissioners taking a vote on the basis of the technical information.

Gareth Stace: You have to look at what the TRA and the whole system is trying to achieve. Why is it being set up? It is being set up because we are leaving the EU. Is that an opportunity to have a system that is fleet of foot, quite simple and employs fewer people than the European Commission does?

That is why a year ago we, as UK Steel, said that actually what this arm’s-length, independent body could be doing is just looking at the dumping margin, because that is a really simple, straightforward—almost—calculation. It is what they do in the US, which is seen as a champion of free trade, and we want to create strong links with the US going forward. There was that opportunity to do that, and so the make-up of the TRA and the committee would not be as important as if it was then doing the injury calculation—that is much more of a black box. You stick a load of numbers in, and you hope that something will come out. You twiddle some dials as well, and the tariffs come out of that. So you probably do then need some independent committee to look at it, but how much are they going to influence—[Interruption.]

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Order. There is a Division in the House, so I suspend the Committee until 10 minutes past 4.

15:52
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
09:00
On resuming—
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Welcome back. We are going to change the order of questioning slightly, because Mr Stace has to go and give evidence to our sister Bill Committee.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Picking up on something you said earlier about the importance of not having a weak trade remedies regime, in your view would it be a mistake to think that such a regime, which did not protect producers’ interests, might encourage other countries to do easier, quicker trade deals with us? Would it be a mistake to use that in some sense as a bargaining chip to get a trade deal?

Gareth Stace: I think it would. You are not going to say to the USA, “Hey look, can we do a really great free trade agreement with you? Look, our trade remedies is really weak and yours is really strong so can you weaken yours and then we will do a great deal?” They will not do that. They will keep their regime and hope that ours is weak, and they will then see more trade coming from them to us.

It is the same when we think about the zero tariff for steel with developed countries. When India exports steel to the UK, it is at zero tariff; when we supply steel to India a tariff is applied. So when we say to India, “Can we do a free trade agreement with you? Hey, you know, we could do zero tariff”, India will say, “We already have zero tariff, so why would we want to do anything else?” What would add something would be having a strong trade remedies regime in place.

If we had a weak regime, what would that mean? We talked about that before. It would mean a loss of jobs, and in the steel sector I do not want to talk about loss of jobs, because we saw a lot of that in 2015-16. But we would also see a rapid rise in imports. In rebar—reinforcing bar that goes into construction—in one year China had zero per cent. of the UK market. It did not import anything, and within four years, because there were no duties in place, China had 43% of the UK market. Then, once duties came in, the percentage went back to zero.

I know I have to go, but I want to make just one point about the lesser duty rule, which I am sure will be raised later. I know it is not in the Bill but it is very important, in that there is talk that if we did not have a lesser duty rule prices would rise and the consumer would be disadvantaged. Let me put that into context. In the hot-rolled flat case we had recently, the injury margin was 17.5% and the dumping margin was 29%. There is a difference there of 11%. If we think of a luxury car priced at €45,000, not applying the lesser duty rule in that case would increase the price of that car by a whopping €16.50. Everyone is saying that if we did not apply it in the UK it would be dreadful—consumer prices would rise and it would be awful—but €16 is all it would increase the price of a €45,000 car by.

None Portrait The Chair
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Mr Stace, thank you very much indeed for doing two Committees in one afternoon. That is very noble work. Thank you for your evidence to us. I think someone is going to escort you off to the other Committee.

Judith Cummins Portrait Judith Cummins
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Q Unfortunately, my original question was to Mr Stace, but I will ask it to Mr Stevenson. Clause 6 of the Bill suggests that the TRA’s remit will extend to more than just trade remedies and to the analysis of trade disputes. Does that raise any concerns?

Cliff Stevenson: In principle, I think it is not necessarily a bad idea—that if you have an organisation full of trade expertise, you might use it for other purposes as well. I mentioned Canada earlier. The Canadian international trade tribunal, the independent entity that makes determinations on injury, can also be given other tasks and produce expert reports. So I do not think it is a bad idea in principle that the TRA may do other things. The concern would be about resourcing.

Trade remedy investigations are highly resource-intensive. They are incredibly detailed. Gareth mentioned earlier about the dumping calculation being easy. In a sense, what he was saying is that it is straightforward, the steps are very clear—but it is a massive calculation with thousands of data entries on a spreadsheet or in a model. To the extent that there would be a concern, it would be to ensure that there was sufficient capacity ring-fenced for the different functions. Principally, it seems to me that the Trade Remedies Authority’s purpose is the administration of the trade remedy regime. That would be the only issue I would raise.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western
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Q We heard from Mr Stace a moment ago about an effective trade remedies system. In that one example, an effective system does not necessarily lead to higher consumer prices or significantly higher prices. Do you have other examples you can give, Mr Reynolds?

Tom Reynolds: One example I can give you is from MTRA partner sectors, the chemicals fertiliser sector, around the long-term implications for the consumer if adequate trade remedies are not installed. In Ireland, for instance, the domestic manufacturing industry for fertilisers sadly went by the wayside, because the anti-dumping measures were not introduced in time to provide a defence for their industry. As it became a less attractive market because of less competition, the prices started to rise for all the previously dumped exports, so the lack of competitive environment in Ireland ended up costing farmers more for their fertilisers.

Cliff Stevenson: Obviously, it depends on the product, because when you are talking about products used in another industry, such as in the case of steel, even a fairly substantial anti-dumping duty, if you work it through to the final price to the retailer of the downstream product, is going to have a much smaller effect. Obviously, in the case of a consumer product, where the product goes directly to the consumer, the impact of the duty would be exactly at the level of the duty, so that is certainly true.

It is important always to consider what the purpose of trade remedies is. They are about remedying a distortion, an anti-competitive situation or a subsidy. In that way, any time you increase a duty the users, the importers, or the consumers of that product are going to face the negative impact of the increase in duty. What is really important to remember about trade remedies is that they are not about protecting domestic industry, I do not believe. They are about restoring effective competition. That is a key point. Even if a consumer product does increase in price, in the long term the consumer is better off if effective competition is maintained.

None Portrait The Chair
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Are there any questions? No. May I thank you both very much for your very useful evidence? I am sorry that a Division disturbed the middle of your session—these things happen in Parliament. It was very kind of you to come, so thank you very much. If the next witnesses are here, perhaps they would like to take the stand.

Examination of Witnesses

Anastassia Beliakova, Stephen Jones, William Bain and Edward Bowles gave evidence.

16:19
None Portrait The Chair
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Q I welcome and thank all four of our witnesses and particularly our former colleague, Mr Bain; we are glad to see you back here. I am sorry to be tough and difficult, but thank you all very much for taking time out to come and give evidence to us this afternoon. Perhaps you would like to introduce yourselves for the record, starting with Mr Bowles.

Edward Bowles: I am Edward Bowles, managing director at Standard Chartered Bank.

Stephen Jones: I am Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance.

Anastassia Beliakova: I am Anastassia Beliakova, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce.

William Bain: I am William Bain, international trade and Europe policy adviser for the British Retail Consortium.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
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Perhaps I can kick off with—sorry, is it Mr Jones who is from Standard Chartered?

None Portrait The Chair
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No, it is Mr Bowles.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
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Mr Bowles is from Standard Chartered and Mr Jones from UK Finance. Is that right?

Edward Bowles: Correct.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
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Q I will kick off, then, with the British Retail Consortium. [Laughter.] I am just keeping you on your toes!

The BRC has identified, among others, the agreements involving Norway and Turkey as the most significant of our EU FTAs. Of course, the Government have already indicated that there will be an end to free movement, which rules out simply replicating the Norway model, and that we will leave the customs union, which rules out simply rolling over the Turkish model, so what elements of the agreements—not just those two, but the others—do you consider it most important to replicate on substantially the same terms?

William Bain: The key provisions are those on tariffs, because if the UK leaves the European Union, it is not part of the EU’s common external tariff system, and we could then face higher tariffs on imported goods. A great deal depends on the kind of transitional arrangements that are adopted, but the kind of additional MFN tariffs that would apply would be 12% in relation to clothing from Turkey, 13% in relation to soft fruit from Chile and Peru and 27% on imported processed canned tuna from the Seychelles. Those would, I think, lead retailers and consumers to face considerable price pressures, so the main element that we would want to see is replication of the zero-tariff or low-tariff provisions on imports.

The other key areas that are very difficult in terms of replication and, we believe, may require a degree of assistance from the European Union are in relation to rules of origin. For example, with the Canada trade agreement, there is a complex rule of origin. The same is true in relation to South Korea. I think that diagonal cumulation is involved in the rules of origin in respect of the CARIFORUM trade agreements.

These are areas where it seems that time is running out, the clock is ticking, and a solution needs to be found if British business and British consumers are not to face a large cliff edge in March 2019.

Anastassia Beliakova: Absolutely. Rules of origin are a headache for businesses, and if we consider that there is the likelihood, in the roll-over of existing trade agreements, that they may have to comply with tougher rules of origin or that some of the benefits that they currently get by counting both EU and UK origin as single origin might be lost, that is very concerning. For about one in seven of our members, the existence of a free trade agreement is the determining factor in whether they export to or import from a country. I urge the Government to give stronger assurances for those agreements, as Mr Bain has mentioned, that already provide for, or have clauses mentioning, diagonal cumulation, but also to look at all the EU trade agreements and particularly those that have the greatest economic significance for the UK, and open up those discussions to provide for that as they are rolled over into UK-third country FTAs.

Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart
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Q I would like to put to the panel the same question I asked the previous panel about part 3 of the Bill, which relates to trade information and the collection of exporter information by HMRC in particular. Are you content with the content of the Bill in this part? Is there anything missing or do you foresee any practical difficulties in HMRC collating this information?

Anastassia Beliakova: Not at first glance. However, the wider picture around trade data is that trade data is imperfect. It is particularly lacking when it comes to services, of course, and when it comes to intra-EU trading data. That is where we currently have significant gaps. If, in the future, there can be a more robust collection of data and stronger assessments of UK-third country trade, that would be helpful.

Stephen Jones: I have nothing to add.

Edward Bowles: Obviously, the collection of data is largely in respect of goods that cross borders. It is very difficult to do that for services, so I would have thought that a way of more robustly measuring cross-border flows of services would be quite an important thing to look at, so that you can get a better grip on revenue as much as anything else. Largely, it is more on the goods side than it is on the services side.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
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Q My question is to Mr Bowles: one of your chief economists for the African region noted that African countries such as Kenya were extremely concerned about having to renegotiate trade agreements with the EU and the UK. However, she concluded—her name is Razia Khan—that this process has taken many years already. Can you tell us what your views are on how long these deals will take and what difficulties will be encountered in the negotiations, from your point of view?

Edward Bowles: The great thing about having economists is that they are independent of those of us who do jobs outside of research. Razia is an expert in her own right and would be the best placed person to speak to those issues.

In fact, they are not really trade agreements; they are economic partnership agreements that the EU has with most African, sub-Saharan and, indeed, subcontinent markets. It is certainly true that they have undergone a high degree of revision under the current Commission’s administration. I am not aware, frankly, of any overwhelming dissatisfaction. I attended a recent meeting only two months ago between quite a lot of these markets and Cecilia Malmström, so things do seem to be moving in a good direction. The question is what the UK’s approach would be to that and how much it might be minded to depart, if at all, from the approach. The starting point must be simply to mirror the current arrangements, as was said on Second Reading and in the Government’s response to the consultation on the Trade Bill.

Faisal Rashid Portrait Faisal Rashid
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Mr Jones, would you like to add anything?

Stephen Jones: No, I have nothing specific to add in relation to Africa in general.

On a more generic point in relation to the Trade Bill, it is obviously focused on existing trade agreements and economic partnership agreements. From a services perspective, we need to look beyond that and reflect on arrangements that exist beyond that, which are critical to the cross-border flow of trade in services, because there are very few provisions and services agreements in trade treaties that relate to services. There are lots of mutual recognitions and memorandums of understanding that relate to infrastructure, to recognition and co-operation between supervisors, to the flow of data and to the recognition of exchanges, but which do not exist within the context of a trade agreement. They nevertheless facilitate cross-border trade in services that already exists between the EU—including the UK—and other jurisdictions. It is very important that we do not lose sight of those specific provisions, but seek to mirror them so far as the financial services industry is concerned, simply because the existing trade treaty provision is so poor in services.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
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Stephen Jones, you are the UK Finance representative. Sorry, it has been a long day. Can I ask about the written evidence you gave to the Procedure Committee, where you indicated the benefits of a triage or sifting process and stated how you might apply those when looking at new trade agreements? For the purposes of the phrase “new trade agreements”, given some of the evidence we have heard today, can we include anything that changes the agreements that are part of this Bill? Can you explain what you think the merit of such an approach would be, how you might apply it, and the importance of such a sifting process?

Stephen Jones: Given the time available in the context of Brexit, from the perspective of the financial services industry, clearly continuity, speed and the correct process and scrutiny to transpose the existing trade arrangements that the EU has with the rest of the world to the UK are incredibly important for continuity. That does not directly benefit the financial services industry. It benefits mostly the customers of the financial services industry, but in that context it is very important.

To the extent that your question relates to prioritising whether one should seek to amend the agreements in order to ensure more robust coverage of services within the context of those agreements, I think that in the first phase that is unrealistic. There is not enough time. What we need is as much certainty as we can get. Business in general needs as much certainty as it can get in terms of the transposition of the existing EU arrangements.

In terms of the ongoing amendment of those treaties to seek to extend them and prioritise what should be done—the sifting process, if you like, for services—we can develop a modus operandi in terms of markets that are important. However, as I say, there are significant factors beyond trade agreements that influence the ability to conduct cross-border business between the UK and the rest of the world. Those are a susceptibility to inward investment; strong regulatory and supervisory co-operation; aspects of data protection and the willingness to mutually recognise the cross-border sharing of data; and infrastructure, with the recognition on a cross-border basis of critical market infrastructure in each jurisdiction, such that member firms in each place are able to access and utilise the infrastructure in the other country. To the extent that that can be captured within a trade agreement, that is great.

To date, that has failed and our focus very much is on an ambition for the UK with the EU to seek to build an ambitious free trade agreement that has not been attempted in services anywhere else in the world. But we believe it should be attempted in the current context, simply because of the importance of the cross-dependencies that already exist and the fact that we are starting with a fully converged rulebook, which is extremely unusual in a trade negotiation context. So we believe that there is the prospect of an ambitious mutual recognition-based trade agreement in services between the UK and the EU and that potentially should be the first focus, to the extent that we are talking about prioritisation of negotiation of trade agreements.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
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Q Presumably you are talking about services with the EU during transition, given what you said previously about the short period of time between now and leave day.

Stephen Jones: I think we are talking about beyond transition. From a transition perspective, the only realistic thing that we believe can be achieved is a prolongation of the acquis, which is a full adoption of the existing rule book lock, stock and barrel. The chances of seeking to amend or renegotiate that in the time that is available are wholly unrealistic, and what is far more important is certainty through the transition period. The only way you can deliver that certainty is simply to take forward the existing rule book.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
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Q I do not know whether you heard the earlier evidence. Some witnesses have made points about the shortage of time, but they have also said there is a tension between time and getting it right. Given the short period of time, do you see a danger that agreement without a degree of scrutiny leaves problems that will be very hard to undo later?

Stephen Jones: In terms of the prolongation of the acquis—that is, the adoption of rules on day one—in a sense those rules are already on for the purposes of transition. Those rules have already been adopted by the UK. I recognise the sovereignty of Parliament and the importance of scrutiny, but to the extent that the rules are not being changed we are simply extending arrangements that continue to exist. The Bill’s provisions relating to Ministers’ 10-year power to use secondary legislation to renegotiate those rules strike me as pretty broad-brush, and they potentially should benefit from greater parliamentary scrutiny than is currently contemplated.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
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Q Just so I get this right and we do not misquote you, anything that carries on beyond 29 March 2019 must carry on with no changes to meet the requirements that you have just set out.

Stephen Jones: Broadly, I do not think it is realistic to expect changes. In that context, the secondary legislation ministerial power provisions are broadly acceptable, but beyond that, to the extent that arrangements are adapted to the UK as an independent country with its own trade policy, I would suggest that they merit parliamentary scrutiny.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
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Q Do any other witnesses want to pick up any of those points?

William Bain: The nature of the transition impinges on terms in the Bill, and the retail industry is keen to have a standstill transition in all elements—in terms of the current customs rules, the current tariff rules and the current SPS rules—but it also applies to the trade facilitation that we get from the bilateral trade agreements, which fit into part 1 of the Bill. I cannot stress how important it is to the retail sector, which imports products from countries like Chile, Peru, South Africa and Turkey, that we do not have a discontinuity in our trading arrangements at any stage after 29 March 2019. There are some connections and points of commonality with the kind of transitional deal that is done, but in a sense this is a slightly separate question. It really demands clear attention from the Government in order to get the job done by 29 March next year.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
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Q I want to pursue what Mr Jones said. We have got away from the initial question of the sift Committee. You stressed the urgency of this and the need to try to get things through as quickly as possible, and you adopted an approach to delegated powers and Henry VIII powers of, “Well, maybe they’re necessary in the circumstances”. However, it was your organisation that recommended that there should be a sift Committee in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Would that not be an appropriate way of trying to say, “What we’re talking about here is a minor change to an existing agreement, but this is actually a major change”?

We are talking about 100 separate agreements between the EU and Switzerland alone, some of which include free movement of people. There are going to be some major changes, such as those we talked about with Turkey and the customs union, and with Norway, free movement of people and the four freedoms. Do you not think, given that you have already recommended a sift Committee in one form, that a similar sort of mechanism for trying to distinguish between what is and what is not vital, and what should have parliamentary scrutiny, is a sensible way to proceed?

Stephen Jones: Yes, sorry; forgive me for the lack of clarity. My reference was really to the existing provisions between the UK and the EU in relation to financial services. In my assessment, for the purposes of transition and of business services in financial services, the chances of change, and therefore of the need for sift, are zero. There just is not the time. In the context of other areas, where there is an assessment that change is possible, the sift Committee strikes me as a very sensible mechanism to prioritise and assess those changes and the degree of scrutiny that is required.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
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Q Mr Bain was very clear about the importance of continuity to business. Can I ask the chambers of commerce in particular, but also other witnesses, about that issue? Clearly, the Bill is about the continuity of existing arrangements. How important is that principle of continuity to your members?

Anastassia Beliakova: It is absolutely critical. Our members are operating on the assumption that during a transition period there will be continuity in our trading arrangements not just with the EU but with all the other markets with which we have a trade agreement of some sort. The working assumption is that they should not be making any changes currently or planning for significant changes in trading conditions in March 2019. Of course we are still waiting for greater clarity from the EU on this over the coming months, but I cannot stress enough that in the immediate future the continuity in our trading relationship with the EU during transition is critical. Our continuity, looking further ahead, with the other markets, is also something that our members want to count on.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
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Q Mr Jones, what about financial services?

Stephen Jones: Continuity is very important, particularly through the transition period and on an ongoing basis. We believe that there is an opportunity for a free trade agreement in services between the UK and the EU that prolongs many of the existing arrangements, which are beneficial on a cross-border basis, particularly in markets for wholesale financial services and markets affecting professional counterparties and market-based counterparties, where cross-border provision, passporting and mutual recognition are important to the efficient working of trade not just in financial services but in goods—not just in the UK but in the EU as well.

The economic case for maintaining much of the existing arrangement is significant, but we are, as you know, working with a negotiation envelope as far as the EU is concerned that appears to require change—to require the UK to have less access than previously, in a visible sense. So we need to be seen, I guess, within the context of that envelope, to prioritise what is important for both sides in financial services. In our assessment it is more of the capital, derivative, centralised clearing and—outside my remit but clearly very important—insurance and reinsurance markets, which are professional-to-professional markets operating on a seamless and cross-border basis across Europe, the disruption of which would be quite significant. In those circumstances maintaining as much as we can of the existing establishment regulatory supervisory arrangements around those business activities will be important for the UK economy, but equally for the continental European economy as well.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
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Mr Bowles, is that your take as well?

Edward Bowles: There are two things I want to say. One is that the lead time involved for change for a regulated industry—and it is not just financial services but, my guess is, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, among others—is so long that, to give you an idea, to create a subsidiary where you do not have one, even in a market where you may have a branch, is a minimum 18-month project plan timeframe from beginning to end, and in some cases longer depending on the breadth of products you are dealing with and the number of regulatory approvals involved. Therefore, a degree of clarity around the future timeframe and the continuity in that timeframe is critical. Otherwise you end up creating a high degree of uncertainty, not just for the regulated entities but for all their clients—thousands of clients who would be forced, with scrambling and redocumentation, to look to a different legal entity and to price and measure risk in a different way from the way they are used to doing it with the current entity.

Continuity is key, but the working assumption, as Stephen said, is that there will be change. The question is when that change will come, and whether it will be in one step or more than one step. Will we have sufficient clarity that when we deliver the end state it will be the final end state? That is why the transitional period is critical to get us to the point where the framework gives us a high degree of visibility over what the end state might be.

Mark Prisk Portrait Mr Prisk
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Q On the financial services side, can we look at the issue of remedies? Clearly, in the current set of arrangements that is frankly irrelevant in a strict legal sense to you as a sector but, looking forward, the TRA is clearly not going to disappear in two years’ time or after however long the transition period lasts. Therefore, looking at the longer term, what is the relevance to financial services and what are the critical issues that you will be looking for in an effective remedies regime at that stage? Perhaps you can just give us one or two highlights to give us a sense. We have heard about goods so far, which is very important, but obviously services matter as well.

Stephen Jones: I defer to Mr Bowles on this—given his experience with TTIP and equivalent regimes.

Edward Bowles: Obviously a high degree of dialogue is done regulator to regulator, so we are a supervised entity not merely in the home state where we may have our domicile and headquarters but in all markets where we have operation. In fact, your first point of call would be the nature of the relationship in terms of supervisory co-operation between those two entities, and what it is that you are permitted to do, and where any disputes may arise about what you are doing in those markets. In fact, the TRA is probably much less relevant to a highly regulated and supervised industry like financial services than to some others, in which there are fewer regulator-to-regulator forums that would determine the methods and modes of operation.

Stephen Jones: I would just add that the concept of dumping in financial services is, therefore, not strictly relevant.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
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Q Mr Bowles, I will ask just a bit more about Standard Chartered and the developing markets in the states and countries where you work. As previously mentioned, your Razia Khan predicts some difficulty in lining up quick deals in Kenya and other places in Africa. What is your view about other countries where your company has long-standing experience, like Vietnam and South Korea? How quickly can those countries respond to these sorts of deals?

Edward Bowles: Thank you for the question. Standard Chartered has been UK-headquartered for the last 155 years, but 85% of our revenues are from Asia, Africa and the middle east. In respect of most of those countries, there are no FTAs, either with the UK or, indeed, with almost any other markets. I was quite involved in my 10 years at Standard Chartered with the negotiations between the EU and Korea, the EU and Singapore and the EU and Vietnam and, most latterly, with those on TTIP, and on India in between times—that has been a slightly less successful product in negotiating terms. The fact is that we have FTAs with some of those markets and some of them are incredibly advanced. Korea and Singapore are incredibly advanced markets. You are dealing with very sophisticated regulators, politicians and others. They completely understand what the UK would be seeking to achieve in any renegotiation post the roll-over of the current FTAs.

There is certainly scope, I think, in some of those FTAs for tweaking, shall we say, and data offshoring would be one of the issues that I am sure the UK would want to look at. The negotiations take a long time. Korea was seven years. Singapore is not yet in force but we have just had a European Court of Justice ruling in relation to one aspect of it that will enable it to come into force soon, but it has been eight years overall. We can cut and paste them, but then the question is, “What are the incentives on each side—which will probably be asymmetric in terms of interests—for tweaking, and what will be the appetite and the timeframe over which you could do it?” My guess is that you would want to do it expeditiously, but the degree of consultation and engagement with other interested industries, politicians, civic sectors and so on, would inevitably build in a longer time.

For other markets that are rather less developed perhaps than Singapore and Korea, it would take longer, because if there is no existing FTA you are looking at a degree of transparency around their regulatory framework and around the concessions they inevitably will be asked to make, and the question is: “What is the quid pro quo for them?” India is a classic example. You have visas, and immigration is one of their core demands. It has always been one of the core issues that has bedevilled the EU-India FTA negotiations and that will be no less the case, I am sure, with the UK than it is with India.