Wednesday 6 March, Committee Room 6, Palace of Westminster
- Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP, Secretary of State for International Trade
- John Alty, Director General, Trade Policy, Department for International Trade
Purpose of the session
With the UK currently scheduled to leave the EU in less than four weeks, on 29 March, the Secretary of State will be questioned on a range of Brexit-related matters – including the roll-over of EU trade agreements, possible tariffs on imports in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and continued delays to the Trade Bill.
The Committee will also consider the Department’s longer-term strategy, as it looks to negotiate new post-Brexit trade deals around the world.
Ahead of the next vote on the draft Withdrawal Agreement promised by the Prime Minister on or before 12 March, MPs will seek Dr Fox’s views on the next steps after the Agreement is either passed or rejected – including preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit on or after 29 March.
EU’s Free Trade Agreements
They will also press for an update on the Government’s progress in rolling over the EU’s Free Trade Agreements, to ensure the UK will still be covered by similar agreements in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Despite Dr Fox having promised that all 40 or so of these agreements would be ready for "one minute after midnight" on 29 March, the Government has conceded that some will now not be secured prior to the UK’s scheduled departure date – including agreements with two important trade partners: Japan and Turkey.
The Committee will also seek clarification regarding Government policy on imposing tariffs on imports if there is a no-deal Brexit – which has implications for the prices British consumers will pay and how far key British industries (including agriculture, car-manufacturing and ceramics) are protected from foreign competition.
New trade agreements
The Secretary of State has consistently said he believes the UK can easily secure comprehensive new trade agreements with the United States and other countries once it has left the EU.
Last week, the US published its objectives for any future negotiation, including greater access to the UK market for its agricultural products. The Committee will question him on how this goal can be reconciled with the Government’s stated position – confirmed last week by Michael Gove at the National Famers’ Union conference – that it will not lower standards in pursuit of trade deals.
Progress of the Trade Bill
The Committee will also question Dr Fox on the slow progress of the Trade Bill, which is yet to complete its progress through the House of Lords – over a year after it was introduced in the Commons – and on the implications if the Bill does not pass in time – particularly on the establishment of the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA), which is reliant on the passage of the Trade Bill to be formally established.
The TRA will be an essential line of defence for UK businesses against unfair trade practices once the UK has left the EU and will need to be fully functioning straightaway in the event of a no-deal Brexit.