Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Stevenson on having had the opportunity to discuss this and I congratulate him in particular on his initiative to present a very interesting constitutional proposal. Many Members will probably have seen the commissioned document and thought that this issue was a bit technical and esoteric, which is perhaps why the House is not in danger of breaking up, but my noble friend has raised a very general point, namely that we are bad at ratifying treaties in this country. This is an important legislative role in other countries, and of course the United States does it with great rigor – with such rigour that the executive branch tries to avoid any ratification process that begins in the first place. Nevertheless, it is about democracy, and I think there is a great lack of democracy here, where bureaucrats negotiate these agreements and there is no way to hold them accountable or to express Parliament on the content of these agreements. So I thought it was a very good proposal, and I know that my noble friend Lord Stevenson is a serious and determined colleague. When he makes a suggestion, it shouldn`t just be a nine-day miracle. I am sure that he will continue and will continue to do so, and he will certainly have all the support that I can give him personally. The only explanation we have for how the government intends to include Parliament in future trade agreements is the order document prepared by the government when the Trade Act was passed, which was lost just before the last parliamentary elections. The ordering document was a rather unsubtle attempt to avoid support for an amendment to the bill that the House later passed by a large majority, which proposed a system in which committees of both Houses would take responsibility for approving mandates for trade agreements, reviewing progress, and making recommendations to Parliament to approve trade agreements – a system, in which, of course, the House of Commons would have the decisive vote.
Despite the fact that virtually every other major country in the world welcomes their parliament`s participation in the approval of treaties and trade agreements, why does this government not want to give Parliament the power to enter into trade agreements? The command document says all the good things, such as: my noble friend Lord Patten rightly spoke of the importance of other trade agreements throughout North Africa; he mentioned both Tunisia and Algeria. I can inform my noble friend that the Tunisian agreement was signed on October 4, 2019 and that we are in talks with Algeria. While it is true that there is emerging case law that suggests that the territory of Western Sahara does not belong to Morocco and has independent rights and applications, and since the British Government did not carry out a specific consultation before reaching this agreement, it seems to me that we are responding to the answer that could come back to us, are not sufficiently prepared. But especially after so many fish, this is not the time of the night to discuss it, and I look forward to hearing the noble Lord when He wants to write. I ask for leave to withdraw the application. A number of noble lords rightly elevated the British position on Western Sahara. As the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, mentioned, we continue to regard the status of Western Sahara as indefinite. We have always supported the efforts of the United Nations to find a pragmatic and lasting political solution that guarantees the self-determination of its people. We are aware that this agreement does not affect this position. We welcomed and voted in favour of extending the United Nations peacekeeping mandate in Western Sahara for a further period of 12 months beyond 30 October. As Minister of the United Nations, I was particularly interested in this.
It is up to the parties to the dispute to agree on a solution on the final status of Western Sahara. We strongly encourage cooperation to reach a mutually acceptable solution. “We recognize that the best free trade agreements will be those that draw on and have the full support of the extensive expertise and experience of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The internationally recognised legitimate representative of the Saharawi people rejected any proposal that the EU`s trade agreement with Morocco should apply to them. A coalition of 93 Saharawi civil society groups also said that the people of Western Sahara opposed the inclusion of their territory in an agreement reached by Morocco. The EU has changed the wording concerning Western Sahara in its agreement so that it applies only to products from Western Sahara who are the noble Lord, Lord Davies, and my noble friend Lord Patten mentioned the issue of the ongoing legal dispute raised by the Polisario Front before the European Court of Justice. I am sure that the noble lords accept that it would be inappropriate for me to speculate on the outcome at this stage, as this is an ongoing legal dispute. However, we are convinced that the EU-Morocco Association Agreement, and therefore the bilateral equivalent between the United Kingdom and Morocco, is in line with international law. In the current fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco, registered vessels, including some from the UK, are allowed to fish extensively off the coast of Western Sahara.
For these access rights, I receive a contribution of 30 million euros from the Moroccan government over a period of four years. This clearly violates a 2002 United Nations declaration on the subject, which states that such activities must benefit the people of Western Sahara. Could the minister tell the House what benefits the people of Western Sahara derive from these access rights? The United Kingdom has signed an Association Agreement with Morocco. As I have argued today with regard to Western Sahara, trade agreements can also concern geopolitical policies and human rights; These are certainly issues in which parliaments have the right to be directly involved. The public has a right to know what the government is doing on its behalf. Ironically, one could argue to STAG and sub-groups that the government is doing everything it can to engage with the public and use that commitment to avoid deliberately circumventing parliamentary scrutiny. Certainly, in Parliament, we are obliged to play a role in monitoring what the government intends to do, and that will bring significant added value if we ensure that both Houses are fully involved in trade negotiations and that we look at what the executive is doing. If the United Kingdom and Morocco have an agreement with one of the other countries provided for in the Protocol on Rules of Origin, you can continue to use and, in some cases, process materials from that country in your exports to Morocco. You must ensure that the working or processing you carry out in the United Kingdom exceeds the minimum transactions set out in the Contract and that the other relevant conditions are met. Before addressing specific issues relating to the AGREEMENT between the United Kingdom and Morocco, I will first address the interest of the noble lords in advancing the broader programme of continuity of trade as a whole. The Whitehall programme, led by DIT, aims to replicate the efforts of EU trade agreements to ensure continuity once these agreements cease to apply to the UK at the end of the transition period. The government opted for a continuity mandate because it was the right approach that gave security to businesses; many noble lords raised the question of certainty.
We felt – and rightly so, I believe – that this would give companies security and fulfil the obligations of the United Kingdom while it was still an EU Member State at the time of the launch of the programme. However, I maintain my view that it would be a serious mistake to start negotiations on new free trade agreements with countries where we are not content to move forward with an EU agreement and with those with which we do not currently have a national free trade agreement before concluding negotiations with the European Union or the United States. When I say `before we have concluded`, I mean before we have completed it or realised that there is no point in pursuing this particular issue with these countries for the foreseeable future – which, of course, is another possible outcome. This is believed to be the first such legal challenge to a trade deal signed by the UK since it left the European Union (EU). “Parliament must play a strong and effective role in reviewing our trade policy and free trade agreements”, this guide contains information on aspects of trade that will change once the Association Agreement between the UK and Morocco enters into force. This is for British companies that trade with Morocco. The Association Agreement between the UNITED Kingdom and Morocco was submitted to Parliament on 20 December 2019 and, as a treaty, is subject to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. . . .