I have received a considerable amount of correspondence about the UK Internal Market Bill about which there has been much speculation and commentary.
I want to be clear that my ministerial colleagues and I are committed to the rule of law, as determined by a democratically elected Parliament. It is not unusual for Parliament to consider legislation that could override treaty obligations. This is because the UK’s constitutional settlement provides for Parliament alone to decide whether, and how, to implement the UK’s treaty obligations. My constituents may remember that this principle was upheld by the Supreme Court in the Miller Case on invoking Article 50.
With regards to the Northern Ireland Protocol, my constituents should know that the Protocol as it stands contains inconsistencies that the UK and European Union had intended to resolve by the end of the year. Although we are still optimistic that we will ultimately reach a deal with the EU at the end of the transition period, the Government must also plan for the unlikely scenario where no agreement is reached.
As the Prime Minister made clear here when he introduced the Internal Market Bill in the House of Commons, the purpose of this Bill is to protect the integrity of the United Kingdom. We entered negotiations with the EU on the premise that both sides would show ‘good faith,’ and with a joint aim to ensure that Northern Ireland remains part of the UK customs territory. However, in recent months the EU has been using the Northern Ireland protocol to exert leverage in our negotiations for a free trade agreement. For example, the EU has suggested blocking the transport of food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. I don’t think many of my constituents would tolerate Worcestershire farmers not being able to sell their produce to fellow UK citizens in Northern Ireland because of restrictions imposed by the EU - especially as we are no longer members of the EU! And I am sure many of my constituents will agree that this cannot be allowed to happen.
Therefore, the Government has proposed a safety net in the form of the UK Internal Market Bill to protect our Union and ensure that the UK’s obligations under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement are met. We must protect our sovereignty and our right to trade freely with Northern Ireland. Without this bill there is a real risk that, in a no deal scenario, the default legal position risks creating substantial barriers to trade within the UK. Great British products should be available for all UK citizens to purchase, wherever they are in our country.
I hope you understand therefore, that while I remain fully committed to international law - and we hope that this Bill proves to be an unnecessary precaution - as a representative in the Houses of Parliament, I have a duty to protect the integrity of the Union, and ensure that Worcestershire businesses can continue to trade seamlessly across the UK. That is the overriding purpose of the UK Internal Market Bill. In his summing up speech in the recent House of Commons debate on this Bill, Michael Gove explained the government’s situation clearly and his comments can be found here.
I do hope that this provides sufficient explanation as to why I think the Bill is necessary at this point in negotiations and I thank all those who have taken the time to contact me about this matter - including those who disagree with the Government’s stance.