Brexit – UK Ministers Accused of U-turn on Trade Deal Scrutiny

8th February 2022 / United Kingdom
Brexit - UK Ministers Accused of U-turn on Trade Deal Scrutiny

Not satisfied with the lies about Brexit to make it happen, or the lies to keep the illusion that Brexit is having some sort of positive influence on the economy – Boris Johnson’s government are now actively blocking scrutiny on international trade deals before they are signed, which could have profound consequences for Britain.

The result – outraged MPs have now accused Boris Johnson’s government of rowing back on the one key promise he made to debate its new post-Brexit trade deals in parliament.

During heated exchanges over the UK’s Trade Bill last February, Investment Minister Gerry Grimstone said he wanted to “provide reassurance” to the House of Lords that MPs will have a chance to debate all trade deals before they are ratified. That was the promise made by the government.

This subsequently became known as the “Grimstone rule” and was referenced in parliamentary debates throughout 2021.

But now the government has told the Lords International Agreements Committee in response to its report on trade deal scrutiny that it “disagrees with the Committee’s characterisation that the minister’s statement constitutes a rule.”

Not only that, it then warned the cross-party group against “characterising the government’s policy ambitions as either a legal concept or established parliamentary rule.”


MPs are being treated like a rubber stamp without a proper chance to scrutinize trade pacts


POLITICO reports that it has seen a letter sent by the committee to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss complaining about the “deeply disappointing” move.

Writing to Truss, committee chair Dianne Hayter said British lawmakers are being treated like a rubber stamp without a proper chance to scrutinize trade pacts.

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The government’s response to her committee’s report “is so bad,” Hayter said that it has been forced to push back, as she warns Truss that the status quo “will not work.”

Hayter urges the government to commit to giving lawmakers information on post-Brexit trade deal provisions; time to properly interrogate them; and agree a formalization of the “Grimstone rule” that allows the role of parliament to be asserted.

We were not asking for the moon,” said Hayter. Without this concordat, she told Truss, “any future administration could easily decline to provide parliament with the information needed for this committee to go about its work.”


“The government has washed this rule away in the sand and is an absolute disgrace”


This is just one in a long list of rows over the element of scrutiny lawmakers have when it comes to the raft of post-Brexit deals Britain plans to sign.

Jeremy Purvis, international trade spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, said Truss (previously trade secretary before the foreign office)  had been “insistent on rejecting Lords amendments to the Trade Bill which sought greater parliamentary oversight of trade agreements.

Compromise, he said, was only struck “at the very final stage of the Trade Bill precisely because the government had offered the Grimstone rule as a commitment.”

Purvis added that to read this shows that the government “now has washed this rule away in the sand is an absolute disgrace.

While trade deals with Australia and New Zealand are largely uncontroversial (leaving aside the damage to British farmers), Hayter said much “trickier” deals with nations with controversial human rights records, including India, Saudi Arabia and Israel, are on the horizon. She wants firm assurances parliament can amply scrutinize those deals.

Needless to say, MPs on the international trade committee are already having trouble with tight timelines the government has given them to probe the deal with Australia. Committee chair Angus Brendan MacNeil sent his own fiery letter to Truss’s successor in the trade job, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, late last month. MacNeil also signed on to Hayter’s letter today.

If we can’t hold to what a minister says at the [House of Lords] despatch box, that’s quite serious for the whole of parliament,” said Hayter.

We will always aim to share as much information as we can with Parliament and its committees while ensuring that we do not undermine our negotiating positions,” said a government spokesperson. “We have set out broad transparency measures that support robust scrutiny of our free trade agenda and have gone well beyond the UK’s legal requirements.



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