Skip to main content

Trade Negotiations: Parliamentary Vote

Volume 616: debated on Thursday 3 November 2016

3. What discussions he has had with the Leader of the House on Parliament debating and voting on the outcome of trade negotiations before they are signed. (907065)

As the hon. Lady will know, I am a great advocate of parliamentary scrutiny. The Department for International Trade is currently working to shape a more independent UK trade policy. Once we begin to negotiate trade agreements, Parliament will, of course, play its crucial role in ensuring that we deliver on our commitment to secure the best possible negotiation outcome for the whole of the UK.

Trade agreements need at least 50 negotiators per bilateral. The former Brexit Minister, the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), said in July that the UK has “no trade negotiators”. The Minister of State himself said last month that the number has “doubled since June”. Zero doubled is still zero. Will the Minister come clean? Exactly how many trade negotiators do we have?

I think the hon. Lady is conflating and confusing two different statistics relating to those working on trade policy and those working on trade negotiations. The answer that I gave in the written answer is correct: the number of people working on trade policy in the Department has doubled since the Department’s creation in July.

The truth is that this Parliament is, always has been and always will be sovereign, so Parliament could overcome any trade deal it wanted. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether Parliament should resist the will of the people.

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I am not going to add anything to what the Secretary of State said earlier about the Court judgment, which has just been released.

Before I call the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), I am moved to congratulate him on his achievement in winning the yellow jersey for his performance yesterday on the British Legion stationary bicycle. It was a remarkable athletic feat on his part.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is nice to come first at something when you are a Liberal Democrat.

More seriously, on the subject of debating and voting on essential trade matters, is it not essential that the Government give way to the courts and allow Parliament to be sovereign and to debate and vote on the issue of article 50?

I first join you, Mr Speaker, in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on achieving the yellow jersey. I thought for a moment that it was an internal Liberal Democrat award, in which case winning out of eight was perhaps not the greatest of achievements, but I commend him on what he has done.

I have nothing to add to what the Secretary of State said earlier, but I will say that, in general, we are very committed to consulting Parliament on the future of trade agreements, which is the subject of the question on the Order Paper.

Certainly, the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington beat me, as he is signalling from a sedentary position. I did my best, but he was far superior and I pay him due tribute.

Will my right hon. Friend the Minister confirm that, notwithstanding this morning’s Court judgment, Brexit means Brexit—[Interruption.]and the will of the British people in the referendum will be respected?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I campaigned for the remain side on 23 June, but nevertheless I fundamentally and totally agree that Brexit means Brexit. This Government are getting on with delivering and making sure that it works for the whole of the United Kingdom.