John calls on Prime Minister to appoint Cabinet member for crucial trade deal

John Healey has called on the Prime Minister to appoint a senior minister to take responsibility for a key EU-US trade deal.

After the departure of Ken Clarke in the latest reshuffle, no senior minister was responsible for the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP). With the position unfilled responsibility has now reverted to Lord Livingston, a junior minister at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills appointed only last year.

Mr Healey has been leading scrutiny of the negotiations is chair of the All Party Group on TTIP, which could be the biggest bi-lateral agreement the world has ever seen.

He wrote to David Cameron today:

“Dear Prime Minister

You hosted the launch of negotiations on a transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) by Presidents Obama, Barroso and Van Rompuy at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland last year. At the time you said that this was a “landmark deal” which would have “a greater impact than all the other trade deals on the table put together” generating two million jobs overall and lower prices for consumers. You promised “political will in the months ahead” adding that “this is a once-in-a-generation prize, and we are determined to seize it.”

The UK is uniquely place to lead the public case for an ambitious deal that can benefit British consumers and workers, as well as British business. Our economy needs this potential boost to jobs and growth. Yet over the last year there has been near silence from the UK government, and precious little evidence of the political will you promised. Rather than promoting Britain’s national interest b playing a leading role in Europe on TTIP, we’ve seen instead you sacrifice UK influence in Europe in favour of managing narrow party interests and tensions.

Now your failure on this front is even clearer, as it has been confirmed to me today that following your government reshuffle last month, there is no longer anyone in the Cabinet with TTIP leadership and responsibility across government. Ken Clarke may not have been effective but he was experienced and highly-respected on these matters by business in Britain and by negotiators in Brussels.

This is a deeply worrying development, further weakening Britain’s voice in Europe on this crucial agreement.

Lord Livingston of Parkhead is a decent, hard-working trade minister. But he has little political experience and even less political clout as a junior minister in the House of Lords.

While EU and US negotiators are making progress on TTIP, it is not a done deal. There are still vital UK interests at stake – whether it’s on manufacturing, consumer standards and the NHS. Britain cannot afford to take a back seat in negotiations because important concerns must be settles before we have an agreement which is acceptable to the UK public. The country needs a government that stands up for UK interests, one that can make and win our case in Europe.

Your failure to appoint a senior Minister to spearhead our national interests now means our ability to get a good deal for Britain will become weaker still.

Is this accidental or deliberate. Is this an error or evidence of further Tory retreat from serious engagement in Europe?

Whatever the reason, I urge you to reconsider and restore a top-level Cabinet role to lead for Britain on this TTIP deal. Without this, it is hard to see how your commitments a year ago in Lough Erne can be honoured, and how we can secure an EU-US deal that delivers for Britain.

I look forward to your reply.”