Trade high on the agenda as Parliament resumes – five key bills and reviews to look out for

Tue 20 Sept 2022
Posted by: Richard Cree
Features

parliament

As the country gets back to work after the end of the period of mourning following the death of HM Queen, Parliament is also set to resume business tomorrow, albeit briefly with party conference season starting on Sunday (25 September).

For a new government with a stated focus on economic growth, it's no surprise to see several pieces of legislation in process that could have an impact on exporters and traders.

The Daily Update here looks at five key bills and reviews that are expected to go through Parliament in the coming weeks with the help of Grace Thompson, the public affairs advisor at the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT).

1.The Electronic Trade Documents Bill    

This is one of many bills to have been delayed by the death of the Queen and the period of national mourning. It hasn’t yet had its first reading.

The bill would place electronic trading documents on the same legal footing as paper documents and enable businesses to move from paper-based to digital-based transactions.

Thompson explains:

“This will have a positive impact on costs, duration and environmental impact of customs processes as well as improving efficiency for trade administration costs.”

The IOE&IT has been working alongside the ICC on relevant training relevant to this.     

2. Northern Ireland Protocol Bill    

While its second reading in the House of Lords is provisionally due 12 October 2022, the timing of this bill is now looking slightly precarious. As Thompson explains:

“The Democratic Unionist Party, which is currently blocking the re-establishment of Northern Ireland institutions in protest to the protocol, has linked the passage of the Bill to their intent to restore Stormont power-sharing.

“But if no new devolved government is formed by 28 October, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland must call a snap Northern Ireland Assembly election within the following 12 weeks.”

In recent weeks there has been a more conciliatory tone between the UK and the EU. Despite legal proceedings and the unilateral extension of the grace period, both sides seem keen to pursue a “twin-track” approach.

Previous Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Conor Burns, said a few weeks ago that he was “absolutely convinced on the back of the meetings that I’ve had, [that] with good will, compromise, and willingness to press the reset button, we could still get to the negotiated solution that is in everyone’s interests.”                    

The new prime minister, Liz Truss, has also said her preference is for a negotiated statement but that it must include all the requirements set out in the bill. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Maros Sefcovic, has said that the EU stands ready to work in an “open and constructive” way with the UK government.              

Having told the EU in writing that it would continue not implementing post-Brexit checks on agri-food and other products entering Northern Ireland, the UK government did stop short of triggering Article 16, and claims that keeping the status quo is necessary to allow talks with the EU to continue.

3. Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill

This bill is rapidly progressing through Parliament, although its latest debate saw some heated contributions from members on both sides of the House.

Thompson says that one of Kemi Badenoch’s first challenges as the new Secretary of State for International Trade is likely to be smoothing the waters on this bill, particularly given the ruffled feathers from her predecessor’s no-shows at International Trade Committee sessions discussing the bill, which in turn led to criticisms over lack of parliamentary scrutiny.

The timing for the Committee Stage, at which the bill is scrutinised in detail (line-by-line) is still to be announced. However, the public bill committee that will scrutinise this bill has released a call for evidence for businesses or individuals who have opinions on the bill.

IOE&IT is collecting opinions from members on the bill to feed into this process.

4. Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill

This bill places duties on the Secretary of State to decarbonise the UK economy and to reverse inequality, particularly to develop a 10-year economic and public investment strategy in accordance with those duties, which promotes a community and employee-led transition from high-carbon to low and zero carbon industry.

It is currently awaiting a Second Reading in the House of Commons.

5. Review into delivering net zero by 2050 in a way which is pro-business and pro-growth

Although this is not a bill, this will be a significant review. The Prime Minister announced this during her speech on energy bills.

The introduction of this review is hardly surprising given comments by both the Prime Minister and her new Secretary of State for International Trade, Kemi Badenoch, on the need to be pragmatic about the way in which net zero targets are met.

Thompson explains that this review will be led by Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP:

"He was previously Minister of State jointly at the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and is the Chair of the Environment All Party Parliamentary Group"

 Skidmore has expressed his commitment to "ensuring we continue to lead the world in our Net Zero plans in a way that is pro-business and pro-growth. I've been asked to report back by the end of 2022, so no there's time to lose."

The appointment of Graham Stuart, as Minister for Climate, has also signaled an acknowledgement from the Prime Minister that this is an area that warrants attention.

Have your say

The Institute of Export & International Trade acts as an interlocutor between its members, the wider trader community and the government on trade deal negotiations.

To submit your views and feedback on the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill, please contact us at clientservices@export.org.uk.