Many constituents have written to me regarding the Internal Market Bill. I wanted to update you following the Second Reading and vote on Monday (14th September), to give me the opportunity to explain why I voted as I did in this Second Reading and as we move through the committee stage.
This is a failsafe mechanism in case the EU interprets the agreement in a certain way, in particular the Northern Ireland Protocol, and is designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland in an "extreme and unreasonable" way.
It is vital we pass this Bill to facilitate trade between the nations of the UK after the end of the EU transition period on 31 December 2020. It will be in place to protect the integrity of the UK, as well as ensuring we can preserve peace and stability in Northern Ireland – this is absolutely vital.
Our country’s internal market has successfully operated for hundreds of years and my colleagues in the Government want to ensure our United Kingdom continues to function seamlessly after the EU Transition Period – this Bill will act as a safeguard of this precious system and delivers on our manifesto commitment to protect ‘unfettered trade’ across the UK.
It is my understanding the measures in the Bill are designed to provide clarity over the functioning of the UK internal market and my ministerial colleagues have said powers in at least 70 devolved areas will flow directly to the devolved administrations where these were previously exercised at the EU level. Additional measures are provided in response to concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement and all this will be debated as part of the passage of this Bill.
The Prime Minister has explained how it is believed the EU's current approach could lead to excessive checks and even more tariffs on goods moving from England, Wales or Scotland to Northern Ireland, saying the bill would ensure the UK's "economic and political integrity" and outlining his belief the EU are making unfair demands to "exert leverage" in the trade talks - including a threat to block food exports.
I have been assured the powers being sought would only be used if all other avenues had been exhausted and only if MPs explicitly voted to activate them. It is vital the bill becomes law by the end of the year, when EU law ceases to have effect in the UK. A Government spokesman has explained how this Bill is needed, as it will “protect the territorial integrity of the UK and the peace in Northern Ireland, safeguarding trade and jobs across all four corners of the UK following the end of the transition period."
This Bill will result in more powers for all nations in our country and protect the vital trade businesses currently do within the UK, between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This means no administration will be able to block their businesses trading goods and services produced and sold legitimately in other parts of the UK. This key framework will importantly protect both British businesses and jobs – something which has never been as vital as we continue our economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
This Government has long recognised the value in four nation co-operation to keep our standards high and current, which is one reason why all four administrations jointly started the Common Frameworks programme, with several of these co-operative discussions are likely to result in jointly agreed legislation, such as on food labelling. Chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef are illegal in the UK and I have made it clear to constituents previously this Conservative Government will not sign a trade deal which will compromise our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards.
Our country is world leading in standards of all kinds and often offering more protection than EU standards. This will not change. Our environmental standards are ranked within the top 10 by the relevant World Economic Forum index, our Competition and Markets Authority is empowered to pursue criminal sanction to a level rarely seen within the EU and its members, whilst we led the EU and the world when we first introduced the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974.
I want to reaffirm something: the measures in the Bill do not prevent ministers from complying with the requirements in the Northern Ireland Protocol. They instead seek to give ministers the power, if needed, to ensure the Protocol is implemented in such a way it doesn’t compromise the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and also ensures there is no way for negative legal effects to come in which were never intended by the original framers of the Protocol.
The House has begun detailed scrutiny of the Bill and questioning of Ministers - I will continue to follow the debate and update constituents as this Bill progresses through Parliament, as well as explaining what the processes are. I will be happy to assist and inform constituents further with the positive and important aspects contained in this Bill.