Interviewed by Radio 4's Charlotte Smith, Professor Lorand Bartels, the chair of the new Trade and Agriculture Commission, has admitted that it is toothless but hopes it is not 'meaningless'.
The new Trade and Agriculture Commission had its first meeting last week. This is the new version of the independent body set up by the government to look at UK free trade agreements, assess their impact on food and farming and report to Parliament. The Government published it's response to the first TAC in October and chose to back international standards rather than set up a set of core standards for the UK.
In his interview Professor Bartels clarified the role of the new TAC.
"The Commission in its current form is not supposed to offer policy advice during negotiations. The function of the Commission is to review Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that have already been negotiated and to see what those FTAs mean for maintenance of domestic standards."
Questioned about core food standards, Professor Bartels said: "Well we won't be making those sorts of recommendations because those are recommendations about what the Government should be doing and that's not within our mandate. Our mandate is to look at what has been done and to assess that or the implications of what has been done against the regulatory landscape for the various environmental, welfare, health standards that we are supposed to look at."
When questioned about whether the new TAC was meaningless, Professor Bartels said: "Okay so on the toothless front, yes, it is toothless sure, it has no power to stop a treaty that has been negotiated and signed by the Government but I think that would be a constitutional innovation to have a body that would have the power to do that other than Parliament. Now Parliament is able to delay ratification of a treaty. If the treaty is not ratified well then it doesn't exist, it's not in force, it doesn’t mean anything. That's parliament's job and what our job is, well first of all, we write advice, the advice goes to Parliament and its Parliament's job to scrutinise these agreements, it does this via it's select committees."
Published 17 Nov 2021
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