Liz Truss has been accused of refusing to answer questions about post-Brexit trade with Europe at the despatch box.
The international trade secretary has reportedly “transferred” all questions about the topic at a forthcoming session of the Commons to other departments, despite the fact it is her job as minister to answer enquiries on trading partnerships with other countries.
In a letter signed by six opposition parties – and led by her Labour opponent Emily Thornberry – Truss is accused of trying to “shirk responsibility for the failures of your colleagues elsewhere in government”.
It says: “Six members from different parties have been informed by the Speaker’s Office that their EU-related questions on 25th February have been transferred to other ministers at the request of your department.
“The only three EU-related questions left are one from a Conservative MP, and the final two questions on the order paper, which – as you know – are highly unlikely to be reached.”
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Accusing the Brexiteer of having her “head in the sand”, it continues: “At a time when British exporters are crying out for the government to acknowledge and address the problems they are facing in the wake of Brexit, the secretary of state for international trade simply cannot put their head in the sand and pretend these issues are not their concern.
“Most extraordinary of all, you are refusing to answer questions about the serious crisis affecting UK shellfish and fish exporters, and about the future of inward investment in Northern Ireland.”
The MPs add: “There is no sensible, logical reason for you to refuse to answer questions about the UK’s trading relationships with the EU, let alone inward investment in Northern Ireland, other than your desire to shirk responsibility for the failures of your colleagues elsewhere in government, and the consequences being felt by exporters throughout the country.
“With all due respect, that is not a good enough excuse. Officials in your department, including those employed in European capitals, are working hard every day to help UK businesses with their trade and investment activity and to resolve their export problems, and the least they all deserve is a secretary of state prepared to answer questions about that work in parliament”.
It is signed by Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland.
Writing on Facebook, Thornberry added: “I have never known anything like it, and neither have most of my colleagues in parliament. With representatives from the other opposition parties, I have written to Liz Truss to register our protests. I will keep you updated on what response we receive.”
Truss is yet to respond to the criticism but a Department for International Trade spokesperson said: “All parliamentary questions are directed to the department best placed to respond. This is standard practice in government and has been the case under successive governments.
“The Cabinet Office lead the Brexit Business Taskforce to support businesses with regards to the EU Trade Deal.”