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Wolves of Westminster

UK Political News and Opinion

Government publishes controversial Internal Market Bill

3 min read
9 September 2020 | UK NEWS

The Government’s Internal Market Bill has been published this afternoon, in a bid to ensure that trade within the United Kingdom can continue unhindered in the event that no deal is agreed with the EU by the end of this year.

The Bill gives the UK the power to unilaterally modify rules made in Brussels surrounding the movement of goods. It also gives the Government the power to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement relating to state aid, should there be no deal once the transition period ends.

Part 5, Section 42:

“(1) A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make provision about the application of exit procedures to goods, or a description of goods, when moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. (2) That includes any exit procedure that is applicable by virtue of the Northern Ireland Protocol or otherwise.”

Part 5, Section 43:

“(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for the purposes of domestic law in connection with Article 10 of the Northern Ireland Protocol (State aid).”

The Bill also says that, even if these measures do contravene international law, they should still apply.

Part 5, Section (45 2a):

“Regulations under section 42(1) or 43(1) are not to be regarded as unlawful on the grounds of any incompatibility or inconsistency with relevant international or domestic law.”

The announcement of the Bill in Parliament caused a stir yesterday, after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis answered a question from Bob Neill about the legality of the Bill in line with international law during Northern Ireland questions.

Mr Lewis said: “Yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way. We are taking the power to disapply the EU law concept of direct effect required by Article 4 in a certain, very tightly-defined circumstance.”

Contained in the Withdrawal Agreement passed earlier this year was the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of which involved Northern Ireland continuing to uphold EU standards and customs rules. It was implemented in order to prevent the creation of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

However, the Government said yesterday that the Bill would offer “minor clarifications in extremely specific areas” and introduce “reasonable steps” to “remove ambiguity”.

Maroš Šefčovič, the Commission’s vice president, said he was seeking assurances that the UK would “fully and timely comply” with the Agreement, including the protocol on Northern Ireland.

He added: “The Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation and we expect the letter and the spirit of the withdrawal agreement will be fully respected. I think on that we have to be very, very clear.”

EU President Ursula von der Leyen responded to the Bill’s announcement on Twitter:

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Government yesterday of “reopening old arguments that had been settled”, saying the “focus should be on getting a deal done”. Labour has now said that they have “serious concerns” about the legislation and are considering “potential amendments”.

The UK is set to leave the EU on 31st December, after ruling out an extension to the transition period.

The full text of the bill can be read here:

20177

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0177/20177.pdf

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