THE Scottish Parliament has refused to give consent to the Australia and New Zealand trade deals as they raised fears over the impact on devolution.

The Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill is at the report stage in the House of Lords, with MSPs debating whether or not to sign off on the legislation once it reaches Holyrood.

Opening the debate, trade minister Ivan McKee said he was “frustrated” to be considering another UK Government law which “pays little heed to the democratic role of this Parliament”.

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McKee said parts of the bill would give UK ministers delegated power to “legislated directly on devolved matters in Scotland, bypassing Scottish ministers and the Scottish Parliament entirely” and that there were concerns with both trade deals, particularly in regards to agri-foods.

The Glasgow Provan MSP said the bill was “solely about the implementation of the government procurement chapters of those agreements”.

He said that the changes would require amendments to procurement legislation to extend duties of equal treatment to bidders in New Zealand and Australia, as well as make changes to procedural rules. McKee said that the legislation confers the power to make such amendments through secondary legislation.

He added: “This power is drafted too broadly and of greater concern would be excisable concurrently by both UK and Scottish ministers, meaning that UK ministers would be able to exercise it in devolved areas without securing the consent of Scottish ministers.”

McKee said that the legislation also allows for future amendments to be made to both trade agreements.

Scottish Labour’s Daniel Johnson said the Australia-New Zealand trade deal was “deeply flawed” and brought in by the Tories who were “desperately seeking to show the benefits of Brexit”.

He added: “We have much sympathy with the arguments that the Scottish Government sets out. It is important that there is a role for devolved administrations and indeed, devolved Parliaments in approving and indeed devising trade deals.

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"These are arguments made by Nick Thomas-Symonds and other of my colleagues in the House of Commons as we sought to make a number of amendments to this as it went through that.

“Indeed, I would note that in many other jurisdictions, devolved administrations and legislatures do have formal roles in the approval of trade deals such as in Belgium, and I think it's of particular concern the ability of the UK Government to make amendments without consultation if there is a refresh of the rules of this free trade agreement.”

Scottish Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston boasted that the trade deals were the first negotiated by the UK since leaving the bloc in 2019, and that they reflect the “deep bonds, social, familial and economic between our three countries”.

The National: Johnson said Labour had sympathy with the Scottish Government's argument over the trade dealsJohnson said Labour had sympathy with the Scottish Government's argument over the trade deals

He said: “They will strengthen our trade with Australia and with New Zealand, they will deepen our ability to access their markets, and they could pave the way for the UK joining the comprehensive and progressive agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership.

“The Australia deal with the tariffs removed the old UK exports and a real boost for Scottish product[s] like the iconic whisky sector and for our fashion sector, down welfare charter with a non-aggression clause, stops any rollback on welfare standards, and the deal will make it easier for people to operate in each other's economies."

Willie Rennie, contributing on behalf of the LibDems, said that the deals were the “only tangible so-called benefit” of Brexit in the six and a half years since the UK left the bloc.

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Noting Halcro Johnston’s contribution, Rennie added: “I think he deserves absolute credit for his contribution this afternoon because not even George Eustice has recognised the benefits of the trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand.

“In fact, he criticised it even though he was the minister that was in part negotiating the deal.”

McKee's motion, which agreed the Scottish Parliament would not give consent to the bill, also called on the UK Government to make amendments and devolve power over trade, or seek consent from the Scottish Government if any amendments were set to be made. 

The motion passed with 88 votes for Yes, 30 for No and no abstentions.