This morning in oral questions on International Trade, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment spectacularly sidestepped my question about giving Parliament the right to debate and vote on new trade agreements arising from our leaving the EU.
My first question was: “What steps he is taking to ensure that the principles of fair trade, workers’ rights and environmental protection are included in future trade agreements after the UK leaves the EU.”
(Because this was on the order paper, I only had to say ‘question number four’.)
The Minister of State for Trade and Investment Greg Hands replied: The UK has long supported the promotion of our values globally including successfully supporting workers’ rights and environmental protections as a member of the EU, and the UK will continue to play a leading role on these as we leave the EU. We are committed to upholding the UK’s high standards; our prosperity benefits from us reinforcing these high standards, not abandoning them.”
My follow-up question was: “I’m glad the White Paper mentions respecting the role of Parliament but, in order to protect workers’ right, fair trade and environmental rules, will he now guarantee to transfer to this house the rights our elected representatives in the European Parliament have to scrutinise, debate, amend and vote on trade agreements?
The minister answered: “The government has been absolutely clear on the importance of this House and this Parliament scrutinising trade agreements. But can I just mention to her the irony in her question? Only last month she voted against the EU Withdrawal Bill that actually wrote into domestic legislation forty years of workers’ right and environmental protection coming from Europe. She didn’t want to see that transfer and now today she’s calling for us to introduce European procedures. She even whipped her own side to vote against the Withdrawal Bill and I think her actions speak louder than her words.”
You can watch the full exchange here: