The international trade secretary says that parliament is “entirely able” to block post-Brexit trade deals. This is despite warnings from Conservative MPs that their counterparts in Washington and Brussels will have more say. However, ministers say they would not drop a ban on chlorinated chicken and that any deals “must protect our NHS”.
Britain is currently chasing deals with the United States, Japan and the European Union.
Senior Tories have demanded specific votes on future accords.
However, international trade secretary Liz Truss, who flew to Washington at the weekend for talks, said that MPs were already free to “block the ratification” of pacts.
Last week, she said: “It’s an important principle” that parliament can block a given free trade agreement.
She said this can be done through the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act process.
She added: “It’s entirely possible for parliament to block any free trade deal.
“In addition, parliament could also not vote for the domestic legislation, any domestic legislation required as well.
“Parliament is entirely able to do that if it does not support a given free trade agreement.”
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Ms Truss said that she was in her job to get a good deal for Britain.
The international trade secretary said she wants a deal that will benefit British farmers, business, and consumers.
She said: “I don’t want to strike a deal that is not going to command the support of parliament, but there is that check and balance in the system that parliament can block the ratification of a free trade deal.”
This comes after Jonathan Djanogly, a former Conservative justice minister, launched an unsuccessful attempt to ensure that all trade agreements faced a parliamentary vote before they were signed last month.
A dozen Tory rebels backed his proposal, including Theresa Villiers, the former cabinet minister.
Mr Djanogly complained that the procedures highlighted by Ms Truss were “hopelessly out of date”.
He said: “Now that we have left the EU, the idea that we should have less scrutiny than the EU is a poor one.
“All of the legislators in the US, the EU and Japan will have more access rights to negotiation papers than UK MPs and they will get a vote on approval of the draft deal.
“We should have the same.”
The UK and EU finished the latest round of talks about the future trading relationship between the two entities in London last week.
The UK’s chief negotiator David Frost said the UK must “face the possibility” that it will not agree a deal on its future relationship with the EU by the end of the year.
Mr Frost said with less than six months to go until the end of the Brexit transition period, the UK must “continue preparing for all possible scenarios” for once that deadline passes.