I voted against the Internal Market Bill.
Labour has been clear that whilst we recognise the need for a strong internal market, to ensure that businesses can trade freely across the UK’s four nations, what the government has proposed offers none of this. This legislation knowingly and openly breaks international law and will frustrate the process of getting a trade deal with the European Union.
My colleague, Shadow Secretary of State, Ed Miliband MP, urged the Prime Minister against proceeding with this disastrous bill. He posed the following questions to the Prime Minister just before the vote:
“There are two questions at the heart of this Bill and why will be opposing it tonight.
First. How do we get an internal market after January 1st within the UK while upholding the devolution settlements which have been part of our constitution now for two decades and are vital to our Union?
Secondly, is our country going to abide by the rule of law, a rules-based international order for which we are famous around the world and have always stood up for?”
The Prime Minister’s response was shambolic. He claimed there was misunderstanding about the Withdrawal Agreement. I am afraid that this was a clear lie. He is prepared to disregard an international treaty he personally negotiated and signed up to and took to the electorate in the December 2019 General Election as part of the Conservative manifesto.
Labour’s position is clear. We cannot support a Bill that the Government itself admits breaches international law. This is not only morally wrong on the part of the UK Government, but incompetent. Our Government, breaking its word will do us no favours when it comes to negotiating trade deals with other countries. The Government will not be trusted and the UK public will suffer the consequences of that.
I practised as a solicitor for nearly thirty years before being elected to Parliament. It causes me grave personal concern that Government ministers and Conservative MPs who are qualified solicitors and barristers, have voted in favour of legislation that breaches international law. This is an issue of professional conduct in my view.
The Bill will return from the House of Lords shortly when there will be further debate and possible votes on any amendments it makes.