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UK parliament in daylight

In the first of her parliamentary round-ups in 2023, Grace Thompson, public affairs adviser at the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT), examines the latest goings-on in Westminster.

There is a lot happening in parliament this week that relates to trade policy.

Last week, the secretary of state for international trade, Kemi Badenoch, published a letter to the International Trade Committee, updating it on the UK-India free trade agreement (FTA).

Indian media reports that the government there have reaffirmed their commitment to the deal.

It was interesting to see that Badenoch made it clear to her negotiation counterparts that she had several red lines on standards.

Red lines

For example, there were environmental and labour protections as well as public health, animal welfare and food standards.

This seems to have been a reassurance on her side to the committee, following their unhappiness over controversial aspects of the UK’s agreements with Australia and New Zealand.

In a separate letter, Badenoch also said the government will shortly publish its response to the trade modelling review.

This review set out recommendations of how the Department for International Trade (DIT) can improve its approach to qualitatively assess the impact of new FTAs.

‘Momentum’ in NI

There's also plenty happening around Northern Ireland policy this week. Talks resumed yesterday between the foreign secretary, James Cleverly, and the vice president of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič.

The momentum towards a new deal on Northern Ireland is mounting, but there has been no ‘white smoke’ yet.

This follows the EU and UK reaching an agreement last week on a new customs data-sharing system that will be crucial to any new deal.

Weekly lookahead

On Wednesday (18 January), the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Subcommittee meets to discuss follow-up scrutiny of the provision of medicines to NI under the protocol.

The same day, the International Trade Committee will hear evidence on UK trade negotiations from a range of stakeholders, including several renowned law professors.

Finally, on Thursday, the Special Public Bill Committee takes evidence on the Electronic Trade Documents Bill, which is making its way through the legislative process.

The first evidence session of the Public Bill Committee took place last week and was relatively uncontroversial, as the benefits of the bill are widely accepted.