International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has swerved demands to publish the economic impact assessment of Boris Johnson’s trade deal with the EU.
Labour questioned why “every single one” of more than 30 new trade agreements put before MPs in the last two years has been accompanied by such an assessment while they were still waiting for similar information for the post-Brexit agreement.
But Ms Truss insisted her department was not responsible for negotiating the deal with the EU, adding “full data” has been released.
Speaking in the Commons, shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry said: “Over the last two years the Government has placed, as the Secretary of State tells us frequently, more than 30 new trade agreements before the House.
“Every single one of them, of course, has been accompanied by an economic impact assessment.
“And the Secretary of State’s October agreement with Japan set a new standard for these documents with over 100 pages analysing the impact of the deal on UK exports, jobs, business and growth.
“So can I simply ask when is the Government going to publish the economic impact assessment for the UK’s trade agreement with the European Union?”
Ms Truss replied: “The honourable lady will be well aware that the Department for International Trade is not responsible for negotiating the agreement with the EU, that’s a matter for Taskforce Europe and they have provided full data to this House and the House voted for the deal, including I’m delighted to see, the honourable lady.”
Ms Thornberry added: “I wasn’t asking if she was responsible, I was just thinking since she was in the Cabinet that she might know when this impact assessment was going to be published.”
Ms Thornberry also raised further concerns about a lack of scrutiny during earlier questions in the sessions.
She said: “It’s been 14 days now since the provisional trade agreement between the UK and Cameroon entered into force and yet Parliament has still not even seen that agreement, let alone had the chance to examine it, debate it, or approve it.
“While I fully understand the reasons why that’s happened, does (MsTruss) understand why members on all sides of the House believe that this episode is just the latest illustration for why the need for scrutiny procedures need to be improved, which is the reason why many of them will be voting for changes to that next Tuesday.”
Ms Truss responded: “Well I like to say scrutiny starts at home so I suggest (Ms Thornberry) starts with her colleague (Labour MP Gareth Thomas) who presided over the EU signing of the Cariforum deal 13 years ago which is still being provisionally applied.
“I’m not quite sure why (Ms Thornberry) doesn’t ask for a debate on that.”
Ms Thornberry warned Cameroon has become, in the last three years, “one of the most abusive, repressive and murderous regimes in the world”.
She added: “Now, we all know that that didn’t stop (Ms Truss) reaching a trade agreement with them.
“But, we don’t even know what, if anything, the trade agreement says on this issue.
“So again, can (Ms Truss) understand why members on all sides of this House also believe that there is a need for new laws next Tuesday obliging the Government to take proper account of human rights when negotiating and ratifying new trade agreements?”
Ms Truss responded: “Well I had hoped that (Ms Thornberry) would have welcomed our announcement earlier this week on the action we’re taking on forced labour in Xinjiang and making sure that Britain upholds its values when trading internationally.
“But I would ask (Ms Thornberry) to consider some of her previous actions, such as sharing a platform with Hamas and refusing to criticise Fidel Castro’s abhorrent human rights abuses.
“It’s a bit much being lectured by a Labour member on human rights given her past record.”
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle added: “Can I just say to (Ms Truss), I expect better in the answer.
“That was just way off the beam and in fairness, you’re a much better Secretary of State than that and I do expect better.”