Fox breaks promise to hold parliament debate on Brexit template trade deal

6 February 2017 - 8:30am
Press release

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox MP has broken a promise to have EU-Canada deal CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) debated in the House of Commons, instead arranging for the deal to be 'debated' today (Monday 6 February) in parliament's European Committee B.

The European Parliament will vote on CETA on February 15. If the deal passes, it will come into immediate effect for the UK: the only country-by-country impact assessment of the deal highlights that it will cost 10,000 jobs in the UK, and 200,000 across Europe.

War on Want senior trade campaigner Mark Dearn said: 

"It is scandalous that while telling us he has 'taken back control' from Europe, Liam Fox has signed us up to a secretly negotiated European Commission trade deal that will hit the UK before, during and after Brexit without any debate in parliament. This sets a dangerous precedent for the new trade deals the government intends to negotiate after Brexit, particularly as it believes CETA to be a template for a deal with the EU.

"CETA will cause job losses, and it commits us to public services privatisation and the introduction of a 'corporate court' system so big business in the USA and Canada can sue our goverment in a private legal system. These are fundamental changes to the British legal and political system which MPs must debate on the floor of the UK parliament.  Anything less is a travesty of democracy."

CETA has already been identified as a template for a UK-EU post-Brexit trade deal. It was negotiated wholly in secret over five years, locks in privatisation of public services and introduces 'corporate court' powers for North American business to sue European governments in a separate court system for policy choices affecting past or future business profits.

In October 2016, Fox appeared before parliament's EU scruntiy committee where he admitted and apologised for intentionally side-stepping parliamentary scrutiny on CETA. Fox told the committee CETA is "worth a great deal in terms of jobs, investment and prosperity” and that, schedules allowing, there would be a debate in the UK parliament on CETA in November 2016.

Committee chair Sir William Cash MP told Fox: "Overriding scrutiny on an agreement of such evident legal and political importance, given our Standing Orders, before MPs have had an opportunity to debate its content and implications for the UK is a serious matter."

Weeks later the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs ruled that “evidence shows that the agreement [CETA] would contribute to widening the income gap between unskilled and skilled workers thus increasing inequalities and social tensions”.

CETA is opposed by civil society groups and trade unions across Europe. The Labour Party is also opposed to CETA, with Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling arguing that "CETA is risky for public services, weakens the rule of law and is not good enough for workers and the environment."


Notes for Editors

For more information and interviews contact Ross Hemingway 07983 550728

CETA in European Committee B, February 6 2017

Liam Fox apologise before EU scrutiny committee in October 2016

European Parliament EMPL Committee opinion on CETA

Tufts University, CETA Without Blinders: How Cutting ‘Trade Costs and More’ Will Cause Unemployment, Inequality and Welfare Losses

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP,  Why I Would Vote Against CETA


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