Parliament

Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [Lords]

Published date : 19 March, 2024
May I say what a pleasure it is to follow the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy)? She makes an excellent case for rejoining the European Union. I could have scarcely put it better myself, and I hope her leader is listening. She makes some important points, any teasing aside, about the importance of economic data and of being able to model the impacts of the Government’s decisions.

I rise to speak to new clause 10, which is in my name, but first I would echo a number of voices from various parts of the Chamber that have expressed regret that we have before us a narrow Bill to ensure compliance with the requirements of the CPTPP, rather than a debate on the substance and fundamental principle. That is something on which, collectively, we could do much better.

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May I take this opportunity to thank the Clerks for all the assistance that they have given throughout the scrutiny process, and to offer heartfelt thanks to the researchers who support my group for the help that they have given me throughout the passage of this Bill?

Those on the Treasury Bench will no doubt be delighted to hear that the SNP will not seek to divide the House on this Bill. We have never said that there could not be advantage from the CPTPP, but we could not be clearer that it offers a poor substitute for the trade deals that were left behind as a result of our leaving the European Union. Let us remind ourselves that, with the CPTPP, we have essentially swapped the four freedoms of the European single market—a market of half a billion consumers, right on our doorstep—for an agreement with a combined economy of almost half the size on the opposite side of the world, which takes only 8% of our exports. It seems to be a bit like putting an Elastoplast on an amputation.

The Government’s impact assessment, which I know is highly contested, even by the Government themselves, indicated that the long-term increase in trade will be worth £2 billion a year, or 0.06% of GDP. We are all aware of the parable of the hare and the tortoise, but I am not sure that many tortoises could live long enough to make up that ground. Whatever benefits do arise—at this point in time, they look distant and minimal at best—they will always and forever be less than we could have had in different circumstances.

Along with others, throughout the passage of the Bill, I have sought to warn the Government that they should find a way to quantify the impacts of CPTPP, and the risks right across a range of sectors that will be affected by it. We will remain vigilant, and will hold the Government to account, where the outcomes justify it. I suppose that I should not disturb the bonhomie that there has been, but one big question remains: will all those on the Front Bench be reunited to discuss any further trade deals before the Prime Minister has to call an election? I await the answer with bated breath.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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