Tory plans for international trade compared to a comedy sketch series

Greg Evans
Tuesday 21 July 2020 08:15
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Picture:(Parliament TV/Michael Spicer/YouTube)

In a bizarre, almost meta moment, political comedy actually met politics in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

During a debate on a Trade Bill that is currently going through parliament, a discussion was brought up on how the UK will conduct its international trade now that we are no longer a member of the European Union.

One proposal is that a 'room-next-door' approach is introduced.

This has been suggested by the Chamber of Commerce in the past. It is described as a system whereby "negotiators can step away and get a rapid response from experts on particular issues so that they go back into the room better informed and better able to move the negotiations forward. That should include business representation".

Speaking on this issue, Labour's shadow minister for International Trade, Bill Esterson, compared this system to one that is currently in place in the United States and it's fair to say that he wasn't impressed with what the UK government is trying to implement.

How do we compare? Oh dear. So-called expert trade advisory groups – ETAGs – in this country are completely different.

The government do not tell us the criteria for membership or who the members are, and trade unions are excluded from a number of groups that were not set up to scrutinise trade deals. Talk now of a room-next-door.

He went on to add that the system they are proposing literally sounds like the 'Room Next Door' comedy sketches that comedian Michael Spicer has made popular in the last 12 months.

This talk of a room-next-door approach has raised concerns because of the over-restrictive nature of the NDAs. The chaotic way in which the government plan to create their room-next-door system sounds more like a sketch by Mr Michael Spicer than how a responsible Government might engage with scrutiny.

If you aren't familiar with the sketches (where have you been?) they usually feature Spicer pretending to feed lines to either Donald Trump or Tory MPs such as Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Matt Hancock who are struggling during difficult interviews, only for his advice to go ignored, resulting in a disaster.

Spicer himself appeared completely shocked to learn that his sketch series had been mentioned in the Commons.

The mentions of Spicer didn't end there. Jonathan Gullis, the Tory MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, asked Esterson to give way on the scrutiny point, to which Emily Thornberry, the shadow secretary of state of International Trade quipped:

On the Michael Spicer point?

To which Esterson joked:

I don’t know whether Michael Spicer is talking to the honourable member or not; we will find out in a moment.

Spicer did not appear to be talking to Gullis but he was told that he was talking "rubbish" but who knows, one day, his skills for talking to people in another room could become invaluable.

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