UK internal market: initial assessment of UK Government proposals

Initial Scottish Government assessment of the threat to devolution, regulatory standards, businesses and jobs.

International trade negotiations

The White Paper states that internal market arrangements are a means of ensuring that a state’s internal regulatory and market arrangements are aligned with its external trading relationships (paragraph 123). However, in other states, territorial administrations have a role in influencing and agreeing those new trading relationships. For example, the Canadian Provinces had a substantive role involved in developing Canada’s mandate in the recent CETA negotiations with the EU.

There are significant structural weaknesses in the system oversight and scrutiny of the UK Government’s approach to international negotiations.  This is an issue for the devolved governments and parliaments but also for Westminster. 

The Scottish Government has published detailed proposals to improve these arrangements which become even more relevant in the context of the UK internal market proposals. The proposals are designed to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard and respected, and to protect and promote its interests.   In summary, the proposals are that the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament must have a guaranteed role in all stages of the formulation, negotiation, agreement and implementation of future trade deals.    The proposals set out in greater detail what such involvement might look like, as well as proposing the establishment, in statute, of a new inter-governmental committee to consider and agree a range of trade issues.

Such an enhanced role will be in everyone’s interest.   Domestically, it would ensure that negotiations are conducted on a proper understanding of the issues for the devolved governments, that decisions would be taken closer to the people affected and have a greater transparency and legitimacy, and that any problematic issues would be surfaced and dealt with quickly.  Implementing these proposals would also provide reassurance to the UK’s future negotiating partners that negotiations are proceeding on consensus within the UK and that agreements would endure.

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