Governments in Scotland and Wales and the Northern Irish Executive should be asked for their consent on trade policy.
The recommendation has been made in the Law Society's response to the House of Commons International Trade Committee’s UK Trade Policy Transparency and Scrutiny inquiry.
The Law Society said there should be a “whole of government” approach on the UK’s future trade policy, particularly where international agreements would have an impact on devolved areas.
The Law Society has suggested that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU has created an opportunity to review and, where appropriate, reform existing UK procedures for negotiating international trade agreements.
And it also has urged the UK Government to engage with the devolved legislatures at Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont, to create a comprehensive and inclusive trade policy.
Among the options explored by the Law Society is a memorandum of understanding between the UK Government and the devolved administrations to installing a formal requirement of consent from the devolved administrations.
Charles Mullin, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Constitutional Law Committee, said: “We think that determining the UK’s position on international trade demands a whole of government approach, alongside effective stakeholder engagement. In this context ‘whole of government’ should be interpreted as including the UK Government, the Scottish Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Welsh Government.
“A number of areas which will return to the UK post-Brexit, coincide with areas of law where competence has been devolved. For example, inshore fisheries, agriculture and the environment have all been legislated on by the Scottish Parliament and are all areas which are likely to be affected by any future trade agreements. We’re aware that the UK Government’s intention, as expressed in the White Paper on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, is for rules for agrifood to be legislated by the UK Parliament and the devolved legislatures, while fisheries negotiations would include representatives of the devolved administrations.
“We consider that trade policy documents, including negotiation texts, should be made available to parliamentarians, both in Westminster and the devolved legislatures, to enhance transparency, facilitate scrutiny and strengthen democratic accountability.
“Rather than seek to engage with devolved administrations on an ad hoc basis, we hope that the discussions emanating from publication of the White Paper will lead to a formal structure being put in place to enable collaborative trade policy formulation and ensure ongoing engagement throughout the negotiation process.”