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House of Commons Hansard

Negotiations: Confidentiality

14 December 2017
Volume 633

  • 8. What assessment he has made of the potential merits of maintaining appropriate confidentiality in the UK’s negotiations with the EU; and if he will make a statement. [902935]

  • The Government are conducting the negotiations while balancing the need for appropriate confidentiality with our commitment to keep Parliament and the public informed as the negotiations unfold. We have been clear that we will be as open and transparent as possible, subject to our not revealing any information that will undermine our negotiations with the European Union.

  • We all value the Government’s being open about the negotiations, when they can be. In that vein, is my right hon. Friend aware of any Opposition Member having asked the EU to be more open about its negotiating process?

  • My hon. Friend makes an important point. We always hear criticism of our level of openness, but we never hear criticism of the EU’s. To help us to understand that, I shall quote from the EU’s own factsheet on transparency in trade negotiations:

    “A certain level of confidentiality is necessary to protect EU interests and to keep chances for a satisfactory outcome high. When entering into a game, no-one starts by revealing his entire strategy to his counterpart from the outset: this is also the case for the EU.”

    That is the approach that the EU is taking, so it is right that we take a similar approach.

  • We saw with the debacle of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that people were very unhappy with the lack of transparency around such negotiations. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we need a much more transparent and democratic process not only for approving trade deals, but for scrutinising the negotiations as they are going on?

  • I do in principle agree, which is why, when we made the sectoral analyses available to both Select Committees, in the Commons and the Lords, we also set up an arrangement for Members of Parliament—a confidential reading room—so that they could read those briefings. Generally speaking, that is our approach. I report back to this House—if the Prime Minister does not—after every round of negotiations, and that is much more than the European Parliament gets.