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Free trade agreements (FTAs) cover a wide range of policy areas so it is important that they receive proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Trade agreements are international treaties. The UK Government is responsible for negotiating, signing and ratifying them under its prerogative powers. The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (CRAG) Act 2010 sets out the statutory framework for treaty scrutiny. There have been calls for this to be strengthened to give Parliament a greater role. The Government has made a number of non-statutory commitments on parliamentary scrutiny of trade agreements.

Scrutiny of the UK’s trade agreement with Australia, the first post-Brexit trade deal, did not go smoothly. There was no debate in the House of Commons within the 21 day period for treaty scrutiny under CRAG. The Commons International Trade Committee published a highly critical report on the scrutiny arrangements for this agreement.

On 19 July, Anthony Mangnall MP, the sponsor of this Westminster Hall debate, was granted an Urgent Question on parliamentary scrutiny of the trade agreement with Australia. Scrutiny issues were also raised during the second reading of Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill on 6 September.

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