The UK Internal Market Bill entered the House of Commons for its 2nd Reading last week and passed comfortably with a majority of 77. The Bill was labelled by some as an intercontinental breaker of treaties – apparently making Prime Minister Boris Johnson an international criminal and liberating Brexit out of its Brusselian jail. Depending on your political affiliation, the Bill was either the best or the worst thing to happen this year, but the truth is, it does none of those things. It is just a rather sensible piece of legislation for a newly liberated United Kingdom.
The Bill itself is a contingency plan. A plan made necessary because of threats from Brussels claiming it would block British food trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain in the event of a ‘No Deal’ situation – a nasty negotiating tactic, apparently by some in Michel Barnier’s team.
While this Bill has some benefits, it is not the silver bullet we needed to achieve a real Brexit
Rightfully, the Prime Minister didn’t back down on this threat and planned accordingly. By writing provisions within this Bill, the integrity of the UK market is protected – and unfettered access of trade between Britain and Northern Ireland is maintained. The by-product of this is to enshrine Westminster as the sovereign entity – a rule maker, not a rule taker. Therefore, any legal barriers Brussels intends to impose on Britain in a ‘No Deal’ scenario are subsidiary and need not be abided by.
Last week, in the Liaison Committee (the panel of the Select Committee Chairs), the Prime Minister was questioned on the European Union’s threat.
He replied: “The EU hasn’t taken the threat off the table yet, and we reserve the right to act if threats persist.”
This Bill does counter the threat the EU is pertaining to. However, it has still been subject to a rebellion from many Remain-backing Conservatives – and others.
Sir Robert Neill MP suggested an Amendment – the premise of which the Prime Minister has now unfortunately accepted – under pressure to get the Bill across the line with a considerable majority. The new Government Amendment removes the powers of the Bill from the Government itself and places the power with Parliament as a whole. Now, any triggering of the Bill in the future, must be approved by a majority in the House of Commons. This may seem fine now – when there’s an 80-seat Conservative Brexit majority – but come any change in leadership or a change in Government, the Bill – designed to protect the UK’s interests – could be rendered useless by Remainers.
It is bizarre Boris Johnson has even considered watering-down the Bill by tabling a compromised Amendment, when it already bulldozered through its 2nd Reading in the House of Commons. Why? It seems the Government is again pandering to Brussels, rather than maintaining a strong stance in the final stages of the negotiations. Let’s hope the Prime Minister doesn’t capitulate anymore and live to regret this decision – or he will have the voters to answer to in the future!
While this Bill has some benefits, it is not the silver bullet we needed to achieve a real Brexit, as some major problems with the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) still persist.
The first is: the EU has the leverage to launch a legal campaign against the implementation of the UK Internal Market Bill. The Withdrawal Agreement enables the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to open proceedings against the UK, should the EU interpret the Bill as a violation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. So any legislation the Government introduces to correct the problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol, could be subject to a legal battle with the ECJ – and we all know how this will turn out.
My bet would be the EU-based and biased ECJ might just come down on the side of the EU!
Secondly, businesses in the UK may still be subject to State Aid rules. The EU is adamant it can interpret the WA to extend its State Aid jurisdiction if it deems the UK Government is influencing trade which affects Northern Ireland or – the EU.
Theresa May’s original Withdrawal Agreement was passed on to Boris Johnson, yet despite the pitfalls, it was barely changed as he had not inherited a majority in the Commons. This has entangled us in this dreadful Transition Period. It not only restricts our sovereign rights as an independent nation, but also keeps us locked into negotiations indefinitely if we don’t agree a Free Trade Agreement which mitigates the pitfalls. The Northern Ireland Protocol would activate and the UK would effectively become ‘a client state of Brussels’ if the EU wants to push through the powers given to them in the WA.
Finally, the Withdrawal Agreement is not a static document. Scarily, the WA can be interpreted and adapted at any time in the future through the EU-UK Joint Committee – including through future changes of Government. Any changes we make now, can be reversed in the future.
The fact is, the Withdrawal Agreement is not the “Oven-Ready Deal” suggested during the EU Referendum campaign – as unfortunately we had a half-hearted Remain-Government in place, led by David Cameron, who it has been proven never had his heart in Brexit. Cameron wasted £9 million of taxpayer’s money on extremely biased leaflets telling us to vote Remain in the Referendum which proved it! I led an extremely successful petition to the House of Commons at the time against this leaflet, which was debated by MPs in Westminster Hall.
After the nation voted ‘Leave’, David Cameron resigned on the steps of 10 Downing Street the morning after the vote, proving his heart had never been in the country’s best interests for our global future. Then we were duped into supporting a Prime Minister who promised “A Good Deal is better than a Bad Deal” when at heart Theresa May was a Remain Queen behind the scenes!
Now, the Conservative leadership – under Boris Johnson – has been desperate to get some form of Brexit over the line and unfortunately has failed to fully scrutinise the detail so far – although Boris led the Vote Leave campaign.
It seems the Government may now be waking up – and with a strong ‘Leave’ Brexit Negotiator in David Frost, now Lord Frost, we may have a chance – but hopefully it will not be a case of ‘too little too late’! Boris must now make sure he Get’s Britain Out of the Transition Period with the Withdrawal Agreement amended or repudiated into a form where it does not infringe on our independent sovereign rights and our global future.
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