House of Lords Library

Trade Bill: Briefing for Lords Stages

Published Friday, August 31, 2018

This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the second reading of the Trade Bill in the House of Lords on 11 September 2018.

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The Trade Bill is a government bill which has completed its legislative stages in the House of Commons and was introduced in the House of Lords on 18 July 2018. It is scheduled to have its second reading on 11 September 2018. It would make some of the legislative changes needed to enable the UK to implement an independent trade policy once it has left the EU, including: 

  • creating the necessary powers for the UK to transition (or roll over) trade agreements that currently exist between the EU and other countries which the UK is party to through EU membership.
  • allowing the UK to implement the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) independently rather than as an EU member.
  • establish a new independent UK body, the Trade Remedies Authority, to defend UK businesses against unfair trade practices.
  • ensure the UK Government has the legal ability to gather and share trade information.

The Trade Bill does not make specific provision for the terms of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU or provide for new trade agreements with third countries that do not currently have a trade agreement with the EU. A separate bill, the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, is intended to make tax-related provisions relating to the UK’s future international trade policy.

The Trade Bill would give the devolved authorities powers to make regulations to implement rolled-over EU trade agreements and the GPA in areas of devolved competence, but subject to more restrictions than UK ministers. The Scottish Government recommended against giving legislative consent to the Bill, and the Welsh Government said amendments would be needed before it could recommend legislative consent. Government amendments to the Bill made in the House of Commons reduced the restrictions on devolved ministers’ use of the powers, but did not address all the concerns raised by the Scottish and Welsh Governments. The Bill was also amended in the Commons to place further restrictions on the use of delegated powers to implement rolled-over EU trade agreements, although MPs expressed concerns over the level of parliamentary scrutiny of this process and whether other countries would agree to roll these agreements over without substantive changes. The Government was defeated on a cross-party backbench amendment on participation in the European medicines regulatory network after exit day. A backbench amendment which would have required the Government to seek to participate in a customs union with the EU if it could not negotiate a frictionless free trade area with the EU was defeated by a majority of six.

Lords Library notes LLN-2018-0090

Authors: Nicola Newson; Charley Coleman

Topics: Devolution, EU law and treaties, International economic relations, International trade, Non-departmental public bodies

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The House of Lords Library delivers research and information services to Members and staff of the House in support of parliamentary business.