COMMONS

Liam Fox gives emergency evidence on Parliamentary scrutiny of CETA

26 October 2016

Dr Liam Fox MP, Secretary of State for International Trade, is appearing before the European Scrutiny Committee to discuss why the Government did not give MPs the chance to debate CETA (EU-Canada trade deal) before the Council expected to agree its implementation, and explore the wider Brexit implications of a scrutiny override on such an important trade deal.

Witness

Wednesday 26 October 2016, Committee Room 8, Palace of Westminster

At 2pm

Purpose of session

CETA has been described as one of the most ambitious trade deals ever concluded by the EU and may act as a blueprint for future UK trading arrangements after Brexit.

In particular, the Secretary of State will be asked to:

  • justify the lack of a debate on CETA before it was scheduled for agreement and provisional application at last week’s Council and European Council
  • set out the Government’s intended approach to facilitating public and parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals
  • explain its implications for UK trade deals, both while a Member of the EU and after Brexit

Committee's recommendation

The Committee recommended that this be debated on the floor of the House of Commons.

The Committee recommended the Agreement for early debate on the floor of the House for the following reasons:

  • It raises complex legal and policy issues for the UK, both while it is a Member of the EU and after its withdrawal from the EU
  • The trade deal continues to generate significant public interest (for example, stakeholders across the EU have raised strong opposition to its controversial investment provisions); there is a general need for more transparency in trade negotiations and their conclusion to ensure their democratic legitimacy
  • This would be the 'only opportunity' for the House of Commons as a whole to scrutinise and have an effective say on the Government’s position on CETA before provisional implementation. 

Background

Timeline

  • 5 July 2016: The Commission published its proposals for the signature, provisional application (implementation) and conclusion of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and its Member States and Canada. This extremely ambitious deal has been viewed by some commentators as a precursor to TTIP and could have implications for future EU trade talks with the US and a 'non-EU' UK (following Brexit). The Government submitted its Explanatory Memoranda over the summer recess.
  • 7 September 2016: The Committee recommended the document for debate on the floor of the House.
  • 6 October 2016: The Minister of State at the Department for International Trade (DIT) wrote to the Committee asking for the documents to be cleared ahead of the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 18 October, to allow the Minister to agree to signature of the Agreement.
  • 12 October 2016: The European Scrutiny Committee grants conditional scrutiny waiver for signature only.
  • 17 October 2016: Secretary of State informs the Committee of the Government’s intention to override scrutiny, as it also plans to agree to its provisional application and conclusion at the FAC.
  • 18 October 2016: The Government confirms its support for signature, provisional application and conclusion of CETA. The planned approval of signature and provisional application by the Council is deferred, as Belgium cannot agree given Walloon opposition to the deal.

Legal process

  • The Agreement is being treated as "mixed"; that is to say some provisions are within EU only competence and others as being shared with the Member States.
  • The process of entering into the Agreement falls into three distinct stages consisting of (a) signature (signifying the parties’ intention to enter into the Agreement), (b) provisional application, which would implement certain provisions ahead of ratification, and (c) conclusion making the Agreement definitively binding. There are three separate proposals authorising the EU to act for each of these stages.
  • Member States must then ratify the deal (subject to their own internal procedures), which could be several years away.

Further information

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