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Trade Bill 2017-2019 receives second reading in House of Commons

The Trade Bill 2017-2019, one of the measures intended to enable the government to make various trade arrangements post-Brexit, received its second reading in the House of Commons on 9 January 2018.

One of the main provisions of the Trade Bill is the power for the government to make changes to domestic legislation required for the UK to implement "transitioned" international trade agreements that correspond to the EU's pre-Brexit trade agreements.

The UK's domestic legislation must be consistent with its obligations under trade agreements with other countries. While the UK is a member state, the EU negotiates and agrees trade agreements on the UK's behalf, and the EU's implementation of those agreements flows through to the UK via the European Communities Act 1972 (ECA 1972).

The Trade Bill provides the government (and/or a devolved administration) with the power to make "such provision as the authority considers appropriate" by secondary legislation to ensure that the "transitioned" agreements (once signed by the UK and the non-EU country) are fully implemented in domestic legislation and can be ratified (clause 2(1), Trade Bill).

In most cases, the government expects that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 (EUWB) will deal with the implementation of obligations in the "transitioned" agreements via retained EU law, amended to work in a UK context. However, some changes will be required that are outside the scope of the EUWB.

For example, the Trade Bill power could enable the government to make changes to UK law via secondary legislation in the following situations:

  • Where an agreement has not been fully implemented by EU legislation by exit day.

  • Where an agreement needs adjusting to work outside the EU context, and those adjustments require a change to UK law.

  • To implement technical changes to the agreement required for operation after exit day, such as ensuring recognition within UK law of new assessment bodies in the partner country.

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