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uk trade bill

Parliament will not have a final say on the trade deals negotiated by the government after an amendment to the Trade Bill was defeated in a House of Commons vote on Monday evening (20 July).

The bill, which is currently going through parliament, provides the legal framework for post-Brexit UK trade policy.

The amendment to guarantee MPs a final vote on trade agreements was rejected by a majority of 63 in a victory for the government.

The Independent reports that international trade minister Greg Hands told the House the government remained “committed to transparency” and appropriate parliamentary scrutiny would be given to trade deals.

Cross-party effort

The amendment was tabled by a crossbench group of 31 MPs led by Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly.

Ahead of the vote, Djanogly said the amendment was about ensuring parliament retained sovereignty of trade policy, saying a failure for the bill to secure this would be “hard to reconcile with the idea of taking back control”.

In the US, Japan and the EU, the legislative bodies all have a final vote on the ratification of trade deals.

Djanogly said on Monday: “Not only has this not ended up in the bill, but the government’s position has seemingly reverted to having less scrutiny than we did as a member of the EU.”

Other amendments fell

The government also defeated amendments designed to legally bind government to maintain existing foods and environmental standards and to remove the NHS from the negotiating table in future talks.

However, the government argued that UK law already protects standards and that it has consistently said overseas access to the NHS was not being offered in its trade negotiations. 

Shadow international trade minister Bill Esterson responded by asking, rhetorically, “If the government is saying we’re going to do it anyway, what’s the objection to putting it all in primary legislation?”.

Amendments to the bill are still being considered and a date for the second reading in the House of Lords is yet to be confirmed, according to the Parliament’s website.