Working practices: one year on Contents
Appendix 2: Draft Concordat on scrutiny of Free Trade Agreements
We invite the Government to negotiate a concordat jointly with us and the International Trade Committee in the House of Commons. The draft concordat below lists commitments already made by the Government in relation to free trade agreements. We have also included in a box further below several recommendations which are either under discussion already or we have newly made in this report, and which we invite the Government to consider as part of this and any future concordat negotiations.
This Concordat sets out the commitments relating to transparency and scrutiny of free trade agreements and their negotiations, as agreed between the Lords’ International Agreements Committee (IAC), the Commons’ International Trade Committee (ITC) and the UK Government:
Opening of negotiations
- The Government will publish a public consultation and outline approach, including negotiating objectives.
- The Government will produce a written response to the public consultation before commencing negotiations.
- The Government will ensure that Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise these documents and report.
- Where the IAC or the ITC publish a report on the draft negotiating objectives, the Government will facilitate a debate should parliamentary time allow.
During the negotiations
- The Government will provide updates to Parliament and the Committees at the conclusion of each negotiating round.
- The IAC and ITC will receive public and private briefings on request with Ministers and Chief Negotiators, including by way of oral and written evidence. Access to other officials may also be provided on a case-by-case basis.
Conclusion of negotiations
- IAC and ITC will be given access to the text of the signed agreement a reasonable time before the agreement is formally laid under CRAG.
- At the same time as the agreement text is made available ahead of the formal CRAG process, the Government will also make available an Explanatory Memorandum and independently scrutinised impact assessment.
- The Explanatory Memorandum will provide details of any relevant existing domestic legislation, any legislation required to be enacted, or other necessary implementing measures before the Treaty can enter into force, and how that legislation or measure will be brought into effect.
- Where an agreement contains measures on agricultural products, or standards, the Government will provide a report and the advice it has received from the independent Trade and Agriculture Commission to Parliament before laying the agreement under CRAG.
- The Government will not ratify a new FTA without a parliamentary debate, where one has been requested by the IAC or ITC, save in exceptional circumstances.
Box 1: Proposals for further agreement
- It is important that Parliament is involved in close dialogue with the Government from the outset of the negotiations, as the Government recognised in its 2019 Command Paper Processes for making free trade agreements after the United Kingdom has left the European Union. The Government should therefore ensure that we have had the opportunity to scrutinise and report on draft negotiating objectives, so Parliament can inform a mandate before it is formally set.
- Private briefings on individual negotiations and negotiation round updates should provide information about the obstacles and points of contention in the negotiations. We recognise that there will be areas of negotiations that are sensitive and confidential, but we believe that the principle of scrutiny by parliament is important and should be fully recognised. We are open to discussing arrangements to ensure confidentiality, consistent with a full commitment to parliamentary scrutiny.
- There is a risk that implementing legislation could be passed before we have had the opportunity to report on an international agreement. The Government should provide an undertaking not to pass legislation implementing any international agreement subject to ratification under CRAG 2010 in advance of us reporting, save in exceptional circumstances, and with an explanation from the responsible Minister.