On 8 September 2020, the second reading of the Trade Bill is scheduled to take place in the House of Lords. The bill would:
- enable the UK to implement obligations arising from acceding to the international Government Procurement Agreement in its own right;
- enable the UK to implement in domestic law obligations arising under international trade agreements the UK signs with countries that had an existing international trade agreement with the EU;
- formally establish a new Trade Remedies Authority;
- enable HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to collect information on the number of exporters in the UK; and
- enable data sharing between HMRC and other private and public sector bodies to fulfil public functions relating to trade.
The bill’s provisions implementing international trade agreements related to what the Government calls “continuity agreements” that seek to replicate the UK’s existing trading relationships with the EU’s partner countries. The bill does not contain powers to implementing any agreement the UK reaches with the EU about their future trading relationship or any new free trade agreements the UK might make with countries that do not currently have a free trade agreement with the EU.
The bill was amended at report stage in the House of Commons to add government new clauses to enable data sharing between HMRC and other bodies. Four amendments were defeated on division. These related to:
- parliamentary approval of trade agreements;
- food standards for imported agricultural goods after the end of the Brexit transition period;
- excluding the NHS and publicly funded health and care services from trade agreements; and
- the consent of the devolved administration to regulations made by the UK Government under the bill in areas of devolved competence.
A very similar, but not identical, Trade Bill was introduced by Theresa May’s Government in the 2017–19 parliament. This bill fell when Parliament was dissolved for the 2019 general election.