MPs and business leaders launch cross-party commission on trade with Europe and the world

  • New UK Trade and Business Commission brings together MPs and business leaders to scrutinise EU-UK agreement and new trade deals.

  • The Commission is convened by Hilary Benn MP and Chairman of Virgin Peter Norris, and includes MPs from all major UK parties and all four nations.

  • The first evidence session on the economic impact of the Brexit deal is taking place on Thursday 15 April, a second session later this month will focus on food checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

A new cross-party Trade and Business Commission is being launched today to provide independent scrutiny of the UK’s trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world.

The Commission brings together eleven MPs from nine different parties and all four nations of the UK, along with business leaders and expert economists. It is co-convened by Hilary Benn MP and the Chairman of Virgin Group Peter Norris and the secretariat is provided by the cross party, pro-internationalist group Best for Britain.

The government has yet to publish its own economic impact assessment on the UK having left the transition period. The Commission will initially assess the economic impact of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and other UK trade deals, and then delve into sectoral and geographical themes. It will take written and oral evidence from expert witnesses, businesses and the public, to hear from a broad range of voices representing the different sectors of the UK economy, from financial services to manufacturing, and from across the political spectrum. 

This evidence will be used to make regular recommendations to the government outlining potential improvements to its trade deals, that will give British business and industry the best opportunities to bounce back from the double whammy of Covid and Brexit. The Commission will also be able to suggest lessons that need to be learned for future negotiations. 

The new body will also engage with businesses and consumers, including through the use of polls and focus groups, to better understand the impacts of trade agreements and to educate the public on them. 

The Commission’s first evidence session is due to take place on Thursday 15 April and will focus on the economic impact of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement, with leading economists such as Julian Jessop from the Institute of Economic Affairs, Thomas Sampson from the London School of Economics and Vicky Pryce, former Joint Head of the Government Economic Service. A second evidence session is due to take place later this month looking at the impact of the EU-UK deal on businesses that import and export food or other animal and plant products. The session will assess checks on these products introduced under the UK-EU deal, including between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. 

Labour MP Hilary Benn said:

“The latest analysis from the Office of Budgetary Responsibility has laid bare the economic consequences of the UK's Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, and the long-term implications for wages and growth.

“This underlines the importance of subjecting this agreement and other trade deals to independent scrutiny. By bringing together MPs from across all four nations of the UK and businesses representatives, we aim to provide a detailed assessment of the UK’s approach to international trade and to offer practical suggestions as to how things can be improved."

Conservative MP Roger Gale, who also sits on the commission, said:

“The impact of the UK’s new trading arrangements with Europe and the world are being felt by businesses in every sector and communities in every corner of the country.

“We will be looking in detail at the impact of these deals, particularly upon the small businesses that are bearing the brunt of new red tape at our borders.

“This is about setting ideology aside and finding a pragmatic, evidence-based way forward. We want to ensure opportunities are seized to promote frictionless trade and to help the UK economy bounce back from the pandemic.”

Peter Norris, Chairman of Virgin, said:

"As the economy recovers from the devastating impact of the pandemic, it has never been more important to get the UK’s trade policy right.
 
“The UK Trade and Business Commission will provide a unique forum for businesses and politicians to come together and discuss how to ensure that trade benefits our economy and future prosperity.
 
“We will be focused on identifying solutions and ensuring firms are able to make the most of the opportunities created by the UK’s existing and new trading relationships. Helping businesses to export overseas and overcoming barriers to trade will ensure that the UK economy is firing on all cylinders in the years ahead.”
 
Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain, said:

“The breadth of support for this initiative from across Parliament shows there is a clear cross-party consensus: the new trade deals being signed by the UK government must be properly scrutinised.

“We will be taking evidence from a range of voices, representing all four UK nations and both sides of the Brexit debate, to ensure a thorough and balanced review of the government’s trade policy.

“The Commission will also be inviting individuals and businesses to submit evidence, to make sure the public is at the heart of the debate over international trade.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

If you would like to request an interview with one of the UK Trade and Business Commissioners, please contact Paul Haydon on 07988395025, [email protected] 

More information about the UK Trade and Business Commission can be found here. The Commission will meet fortnightly and hold regular public evidence sessions that will be streamed online.

About Best for Britain: Best for Britain strives for the best social, economic, environmental, and democratic outcomes for the British people. We believe this requires re-engagement with Europe, open, internationalist policies, and cooperation with business, all parties in parliament, and like-minded groups.

A recent assessment by the Office of Budgetary Responsibility forecast that the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement would reduce UK GDP by 0.4 per cent in the short-term and by four per cent in the longer term, leading to "weaker average earnings" as a result of lower productivity.

Please see a full list of Commissioners on the UK Trade and Business Commission below.

Parliamentary Commissioners 

Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central 

Roger Gale, Conservative MP for North Thanet

Claire Hanna, SDLP MP for Belfast South

Stephen Farry, Alliance MP for North Down 

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central 

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon 

Dr Philippa Whitford, SNP MP for Central Ayrshire

Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd 

Paul Girvan, DUP MP for South Antrim

Business and trade commissioners

Peter Norris, Chair, Virgin Group

Aodhán Connolly, Director at Northern Ireland Retail Consortium 

Professor Alan Winters, a Fellow and Founding Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory in the University of Sussex

Alison Williams, Global Head of Data at DunnHumby

Andrew Ballheimer, Former Global Managing Partner of Allen & Overy (Legal Services)

Geoff Mackey, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Director, BASF 

Professor Shearer West, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Nottingham

Dame Rosemary Squire, Joint CEO and Executive Chairman, Trafalgar Entertainment

Advisors to the Commission

David Henig, UK Director at the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE)

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