Trade Secretary Liz Truss has defended the UK’s ‘robust’ procedures for parliamentary scrutiny of future trade deals.
Ms Truss set out the process after the Government’s Food Strategy lead, Henry Dimbleby, and NFU president Minette Batters, criticised Ministers for clinging to an outdated process ‘more suitable for the 19th century than the 21st’.
Speaking during a ConservativeHome fringe event at the virtual Tory Party conference this week (October 4), Ms Truss batted away suggestions that her Government would leave the UK with the weakest trade scrutiny arrangements in the G10.
She said: “The International Trade Committee will receive a signed deal in advance of it being laid by Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (CRAG) processes.
“It will also receive an independently verified impact assessment, on environmental, social, animal welfare and economic issues, before consulting with independent experts and producing a report.
“That report will be laid in Parliament. Parliamentarians will debate it; we have agreed there will be a debate after every signed trade deal.
“At that point, the CRAG process is triggered, and if there is an objection, essentially it can be delayed indefinitely following a vote.
“I think that is a pretty robust process.”
But Henry Dimbleby, who made recommendations to Government to improve parliamentary oversight of trade deals in Part One of the Food Strategy, admitted this was the first time he had ever heard the Department for International Trade’s impact assessment would be independently verified, or that deals would be voted on in Parliament.
He went on to say the secrecy surrounding the process left room for suspicion and mistrust to grow.
“It may be that [these things] have slipped through, but I look at this more than your average Joe,” he said.
“The Government needs to be getting on the front foot. When you fall back on things like CRAG, it allows paranoia to kick in.”
Ms Truss also hit back at claims from Ms Batters that Government could ‘totally ignore’ any report produced by the International Trade Select Committee, suggesting the test case for the process would be the new UK-Japan agreement.