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Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

Volume 621: debated on Thursday 9 February 2017

1. What assessment he has made of the potential effect on UK environmental legislation of investment protection provisions in the EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement. (908684)

The EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement—CETA—is a good agreement for the UK. It will promote jobs and growth and benefit consumers. The UK Government are fully committed to supporting such agreements while we remain an EU member. The investment protection provisions in CETA will have no impact on UK environmental legislation. They cannot force the UK or other parties to change their laws on the environment or any on other area of public policy.

I am grateful for that answer, but many of my constituents are worried about us maintaining our current environmental standards post-Brexit. Can the Minister guarantee that with this trade deal and, indeed, any other trade deal that the UK intends to make, our current environmental standards will not be watered down?

Enshrined in CETA and many other free trade agreements is the UK’s right to regulate in these areas, and that includes key environmental protections. There is nothing, for example, in the investment court system that would force the UK to change its environmental regulations. I notice, however, that the hon. Gentleman voted against CETA yesterday, in line with the Leader of the Opposition, but he may not know that when CETA was debated in Committee on Monday, the Official Opposition were actually in favour of it.

Has my right hon. Friend heard of CANZUK, and is he encouraged by it? This is the plan being proposed in the Canadian Parliament for a Canada, Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom trade partnership after Brexit. Does he share my enthusiasm for it?

I have seen this proposal, and we are very enthusiastic about the future of UK trade with Canada. I repeat that we are currently very supportive of CETA going through. We think it is very important for the UK, for the European Union and for Canada, and we will continue to campaign for it to go through, not least in the face of the new-found opposition by Her Majesty’s Opposition.

May I point out to the Minister that in the deferred Division, a majority of Labour Members voted for the trade deal? Given that Canada is such a long-standing Commonwealth friend, ally and defence and trade partner, could he answer this basic question: in a post-Brexit world, if we cannot do a deal with Canada, who the hell can we do a deal with?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman very much indeed for that question. He is right that more Labour MPs—86—voted for CETA than the 68 who voted against it, with perhaps more than 100 abstaining. This agreement has been eight years in gestation. You would have thought, Mr Speaker, that the Opposition would have got their act together by now. On the point that the right hon. Gentleman made, I quote from one of his colleagues, who said:

“If we don’t support a trade deal with liberal, Justin Trudeau-led Canada, who do we support trade deals with?”

Post-Brexit, will CETA be transitioned into a bilateral arrangement, or will there need to be a fresh Canada-UK agreement?

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, and I think we will have to look at that when we come to it. There are a number of important aspects of CETA that we might look to replicate in a future deal, but, for the time being, while we remain a member of the EU, the UK remains strongly supportive of CETA going through.

I heard the right hon. Member for Warley (Mr Spellar) say that he was the unnamed Back Bencher referred to in the “Politics Home” article. It is good to see that he is now named, and that he is supporting the Labour party’s traditional friends in Canada, the Liberal party.