Briefings The Trade Bill: Constitutional Implications and Recommendations

READING TIME 15 minutes mins

The Trade Bill: Constitutional Implications and Recommendations

Modern trade deals cover vast areas of public policy that would normally be reserved for Parliament – from food standards to working conditions to the provision of healthcare. They can undermine policy space, at home and in developing countries.

Up until now, most of the scrutiny and ratification powers over trade deals have been held by the EU institutions. After leaving the EU these powers will be returned to the UK. However, the Trade Bill does not transfer these powers to MPs and Peers who are accountable to the electorate, but rather retains them for Whitehall, creating a democratic deficit.

The Trade Bill allows Whitehall sweeping powers to amend retained primary legislation in the name of implementing trade deals without due scrutiny. While the Bill focuses on replacing EU deals, these will be legally distinct and in practice will be new unscrutinised deals. What’s more, entirely new negotiations will be de facto covered by these procedures and no further legislation has been promised.

We are calling for the Trade Bill to be amended to give Parliament the powers to scrutinise and approve trade deals, as is common in most of our major trade partners.