I wish to update the House on the progress made in securing the UK’s continued participation in the WTO agreement on Government procurement (GPA) as we leave the EU. Yesterday in Geneva, the 19 parties to the GPA formally adopted the decision relating to the UK’s accession to the agreement as a party in its own right. The GPA committee decision on the UK’s accession refers to both the scenario where the UK and EU reach a deal on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal, and one in which the UK is to leave the EU with no deal. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK will ratify the agreement as soon as possible, once the process set out in section 20 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance (CRaG) Act 2010 completes. This will ensure that our membership of the GPA—an agreement worth £1.3 trillion annually—continues, as now, in a no deal scenario. Should the withdrawal agreement be agreed between the EU and UK, a further decision of the GPA committee would be required to allow for UK accession at the end of the implementation period, but the GPA would continue to apply to the UK as if it were a member state of the EU during that implementation period. Leaving the EU with a deal remains the Government’s top priority. This has not changed.
Yesterday’s decision is a significant milestone for the UK, and it will ensure UK suppliers can continue to bid for Government contracts overseas on substantially the same terms as currently provided to the UK as an EU member state. It will also ensure that the UK continues to benefit from increased choice and value for money in areas where the UK’s procurement opportunities are open to international competition, whilst importantly continuing to protect vital public services such as our NHS.
The Government have already begun the process set out in section 20 of the CRaG Act 2010 for Parliamentary scrutiny of the agreement. The agreement was laid before both Houses of Parliament on 18 February. This includes text of the agreement, the UK’s market access schedules—consistent with our current offer as an EU member state—and the market access schedules of all parties, alongside accompanying explanatory memoranda. In a no deal Brexit scenario, the Government are anticipating a short gap between the UK leaving the EU and its accession to the GPA becoming effective. This is to allow for the completion of the necessary processes that allow for a new GPA accession to become legally effective. The gap is expected to be very short and, as a result, the Government are expecting the impact on UK businesses to be minimal.