Internal Markets Bill: Why breaking international law is unnecessary and destroys our reputation on the world stage

Date: 15.09.20 | in: European Union, Foreign Affairs

I last night voted against the Internal Markets Bill: Second reading.

The United Kingdom is known and trusted throughout the world as an international standard bearer for upholding international law. To legislate to overwrite the Northern Ireland Protocol, to renege on the contract agreed just last year is to not only break international law but to destroy our reputation on the international stage.

As my friend Ed Miliband said yesterday in the house ‘this is not just legislative hooliganism on any issue; it is on one of the most sensitive issues of all.’ I was at the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and understand fundamentally the need to uphold peace and stability in the region. The two British Prime Ministers who helped to negotiate that peace settlement, both highlighted the risk that this bill brings to that peace and stability.

This bill is not necessary to protect us from future emergency situations. Article 16 of the protocol reads: “If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade, the Union or the UK may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures.” Tory MP Geoffrey Cox who helped negotiate the Withdrawal Agreement said that there were “lawful ways” for government to deal with issues arising in the protocol.

Whilst I agree that we need a strong internal market to replace the laws that underpin our trade now set out under EU law in the Single Market, there are many avenues for which this can be addressed that do not involve breaking international law or indeed devaluing our own devolution settlements and driving down standards in any part of the United Kingdom.

Finally, at this crucial stage for the country, facing a pandemic and the ever-increasing prospect of a no deal Brexit, we have a Prime Minister who has shown not only his disregard for international law but a complete lack of competence. After all, this is his Withdrawal Agreement. If he had fundamental issues with the agreement at the time- why did he sign it? Why did he describe it as ‘oven-ready’? Why did he base his whole election campaign on it? With this in mind, his best, most responsible course of action is to admit to the country that he made a mistake, that he did not properly understand the bill he was signing and sit down with the EU and re-negotiate in good faith. Unfortunately for us all, this is not a responsible Prime Minister and not a responsible Government.

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