The Daily Telegraph - Business

City grandees to help MPs examine Brexit trade deals

- By Louis Ashworth

BUSINESS leaders and MPs have joined forces to create a body that will examine UK-EU trading relations and British trade deals with the rest of the world, as officials ramp up talks aimed at resolving issues with the Northern Ireland protocol.

The cross-party UK Trade and Business Commission, which launched yesterday, is co-convened by Labour MP Hilary Benn and Virgin chairman Peter Norris.

It will aim to provide “independen­t scrutiny” of UK trade deals, taking evidence from expert witnesses and the public in the style of a parliament­ary select committee.

The commission said it will “hear from a broad range of voices representi­ng the different sectors of the UK economy, from financial services to manufactur­ing, and from across the political spectrum”.

Its establishm­ent follows the closure of the Home of Commons Committee of the Future Relationsh­ip with the European Union, chaired by Mr Benn, which was disbanded at the start of the year.

Trade between the UK and EU buckled in January, with exports to the EU plunging 40pc, and imports falling 29pc – the biggest slumps on record.

Figures for February, set for release today, are expected to show a recovery, but experts warn it may take longer for the full impact of Brexit on commerce with the bloc to become clear.

The group is supported by Best for Britain, the anti-Brexit group that campaigned for a second referendum on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Best for Britain drew criticism during 2019’s general election campaign for launching a tactical voting website that recommende­d pro-remain voters back the Liberal Democrats in some constituen­cies where Labour held only a small lead over the Conservati­ves.

Mr Benn told the Financial Times the body would be different to the select committee he formerly led, saying it would have a “practical focus” on the problems facing businesses.

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