“Jude Kirton-Darling, Labour Member of the European Parliament for the North East of England, this week gave evidence to the Trade Bill Committee in Westminster. The Trade Bill is a key piece of legislation that sets out new powers for the government to negotiate trade deals.
Currently trade deals are negotiated by the EU on behalf of its member states, with the European Parliament responsible for ensuring democratic oversight. But should the UK leave the EU customs union, there’s a real risk that the new UK system would result in a power vacuum, with deals concluded behind closed doors and no scrutiny rights for Parliament.
At a time when the UK is redefining its position on trade with the EU and rest of the world it is vital that any new laws set out proper mechanisms to ensure that trade policy remains transparent and democratic.
Jude travelled from Brussels to tell the Committee what she thinks about the Bill. Her wealth of knowledge from sitting on the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee, together with her experience of leading steel workers across Europe means that she can bring a great deal of expertise to the proceedings.
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP said: “My main issue with the Trade Bill is that it would afford MPs only half of the powers MEPs currently have; MPs could still veto trade deals, but would have virtually no role during the negotiations. EU trade negotiations are by no means perfect, but there has been a lot of progress made in recent years in terms of transparency and democratic control.
I am very concerned that when the UK leaves the EU the rights that were hard won over a number of years will be watered down. This can have very concrete repercussions on the content of trade deals too – under the Tories’ proposal, the government would do what it wants in negotiations and opposition MPs would have little other option than vote against trade deals. In Brussels, social democrats are not the majority but thanks to parliamentary scrutiny we can actually influence trade policy. I’ll advise the committee today not to forget that today’s government is tomorrow’s opposition.”
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