The UK Government is expected to bring forward a motion to ratify the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on Tuesday 26th June, having postponed an earlier vote scheduled for Monday 18th June.
MPs being side-lined with regards to the CETA process is nothing new and the SNP cannot support this motion given the totally inadequate provision of scrutiny procedures in both the Scottish and UK Parliaments.
Indeed, the UK Trade Secretary had to apologise after going back on a pledge to provide sufficient time for a House of Commons debate on the issue. The UK Government has completely side-lined Scotland’s Parliament and Government despite the impact CETA would have on our economy. Having seemingly torn up the Sewel Convention that UK Government’s do not overrule the Scottish Parliament on devolved matters, the contempt shown towards scrutiny by Theresa May’s Tories is nothing short of a disgrace.
Scotland is a proud trading nation and supporting Scottish business to export and attract direct foreign investment is good for businesses, our economy, and most importantly, the people of Scotland. We have expertise in areas including financial and professional services; life sciences, higher education and research; tourism and hospitality; and the oil and gas as well as renewable energy industries. Our exports are growing faster than anywhere else in the UK and well-crafted trade deals helped underpin global sales of almost £30bn last year.
However, the SNP has concerns with certain provisions in CETA and the UK Government has worryingly gone from providing an absolute assurance that the deal does not endanger public services to merely having confidence that it won’t.
Whilst the CETA text includes protections for specified public services, there are concerns that privatisation may be forced upon governments delivering services not explicitly included. Many of my constituents are worried that companies may be able to sue governments in special tribunals outside the court system if they have been adversely affected by changes in public policy and that the so called “ratchet clause” may prevent governments providing services which they or prior administrations had previously privatised.
Instead of providing appropriate mechanisms through which the Scottish and UK Parliaments could have considered these issues amongst others, the UK Government is playing true to form by railroading this motion through the Commons without adequate scrutiny. That is a disgrace and the SNP will not stand by as the Tories continue their campaign against our institutions.
Of course, this debate takes place in the context of Brexit whereby the UK Government intends to remove Scotland from our largest single export market into which we sold goods and services worth £12.7 billion in 2016. The independent Fraser of Allander estimates 134,000 Scottish jobs are supported by EU trade and that a hard Brexit could cost as many as 80,000 jobs between 2020 and 2030.
The UK Government’s disastrous trade policy presents enormous danger to our economy and, in the face of the unprecedented and simultaneous attack on our institutions, the SNP will continue to stand up for Scotland, our jobs and economy.