Third Reading of the UK Internal Market Bill

On Wednesday 29 September 2020, Parliament voted on the third reading of the UK Internal Market Bill. This Bill sets out the UK government’s plans for trade in the UK after the Brexit transition period ends.

I voted against the third reading of the UK Internal Market Bill. The Bill passed its third reading by 339 ayes to 257 noes, however there were a significant number of abstentions on this vote from Conservative MPs. 21 Conservative MPs abstained on the Bill’s third reading, including former Prime Minister Theresa May. This is the first time a former Prime Minister has broken a three-line whip to abstain since Ted Heath did so in 1988. 

The UK Internal Market Bill would prevent any Government from introducing new controls on goods moving directly from Northern Ireland to Great Britain and, unprecedently, would give UK Ministers the authority to set aside the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement (an international treaty lodged with the United Nations) in respect of state aid and the requirement for export licenses for Northern Irish goods.

HM Opposition believe in the need for a strong internal market so businesses can trade freely across the UK’s four nations, which will be vital for our economy and shared prosperity. Unfortunately, this legislation would fail to provide the consensus and prosperity which our country needs. It knowingly and openly breaks international law and will therefore frustrate the process of getting a trade deal with the European Union.

Our country’s international reputation is built upon our values and the fact we have long stood up for the rule of law. The Prime Minister wants to throw all that away by disregarding an international treaty he personally negotiated and signed up to less than a year ago, undermining our standing in the world. The UK’s five living former prime ministers – Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May – have all spoken out against this bill.