About the Bill
The UK Government introduced the Trade Bill on 7 November 2017. The Explanatory Notes to the Bill state that it provides for “key measures that are required to build a future trade policy for the UK once we leave the EU”. The measures include:
- A power, to be held concurrently by the UK Government and devolved authorities, to ensure that the UK can implement any procurement obligations arising from the UK becoming a member of the Agreement on Government Procurement in its own right.
- The provision of powers to the UK Government and devolved authorities to make regulations to implement into UK domestic law non-tariff obligations in international trade agreements that the UK reaches with partner countries, provided those countries have signed a corresponding agreement with the EU before the UK withdraws from the EU.
The Explanatory Notes to the Bill recognise that the provisions in relation to the power to implement the Government Procurement Agreement (clause 1) and the power to implement qualifying international trade agreements (clause 2) require legislative consent. The Scottish Government lodged a Legislative Consent Memorandum (LCM) to the Bill on 20 December 2017. The Memorandum set out a range of objections to the approach taken in the Bill and states that the Scottish Government “cannot accept the restrictions on the exercise of its competence in devolved areas”.
Call for Evidence
The Finance and Constitution Committee has been designated as the lead Committee scrutinising the Trade Bill and the associated LCM. The Committee expects to begin scrutiny of these issues in early March. In order to inform the Committee’s evidence taking, the Committee is seeking views on the impact of the Trade Bill on devolved competences and also with regard to the objections raised by the Scottish Government in its LCM with regard to the approach taken in the Bill. In particular the Committee would be interested in hearing views with regard to the following issues—
- The appropriateness of the powers proposed in the Bill for UK Ministers and Scottish Ministers;
- The restrictions which the Bill seeks to apply to the powers of Scottish Ministers;
- The implications for the operability of the devolution settlement arising from the Bill’s provisions;
- The interaction between the provisions of the Trade Bill and those contained in the European Union Withdrawal) Bill and the implications of this interaction for the devolution settlement;
- The implications of the Bill’s provisions for any common frameworks that may be agreed between the Scottish and UK governments relating to the repatriation of powers from the EU;
- The implications of the Bill’s provisions for the operation of public procurement policy in Scotland; and
- What mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that there is parliamentary scrutiny of the powers proposed for Scottish and UK Ministers in the Bill.
The closing date for responses was Friday 23 February 2018.
Call for Evidence - Trade Bill (83KB pdf)
We received 10 submissions during the call for evidence.
Written Submissions - Trade Bill (2,133KB pdf)
The Committee received 773 emails on the trade Bill, the text of which was broadly as follows—
I’m writing to you as the chair of the Finance and Constitution Committee. I know the committee is currently scrutinising the UK government’s Trade Bill, and I wanted to highlight my concerns.
The bill doesn’t guarantee any public involvement in trade deals after Brexit. This worries me because it would mean the UK government could negotiate trade deals with other countries that could open up our NHS in Scotland up to private healthcare companies, without having to consult the public.
The bill doesn’t currently guarantee that the public will have a say on post-Brexit trade deals. This would mean the UK government could commit to relaxing our regulations on food and the environment to get trade deals with other countries, without having to check with the public first.
Please will you make sure the committee refuses to rubber stamp this bill, until it guarantees public scrutiny on any trade deals after Brexit?