United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:58 pm on 14th September 2020.

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development) 8:58 pm, 14th September 2020

I am a Unionist. I believe that we are stronger together and I want a functioning UK internal market, but it must be one that is based on respect, on partnership and on consent—the very principles that underpinned the devolution settlement that I and my party have proudly supported for the past few decades. That settlement respects our different histories, cultures, languages and perspectives, but couples those with the pooled benefits of working together. To undermine and disrespect that settlement, which is underpinned by multiple referendums and the Good Friday agreement, is both a breach of trust and deeply dangerous.

On Northern Ireland specifically, let us not forget that it was this Prime Minister who personally negotiated with the Taoiseach on the Wirral and gave his word to the Taoiseach and all the communities of Northern Ireland, so to renege on those commitments now is both dangerous and devoid of moral principle, quite apart from the fact that it also imperils the Government’s stated wider goals for so-called global Britain such as a US trade deal. As Nancy Pelosi said, “What were they thinking?” All the chumminess of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with President Trump will not circumvent the United States Congress.

The other fundamental issue at stake is international law and the rule of law. I commend what the former Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, said. Clauses 42, 43 and 45 are, in his words, not a clarification, but a contradiction, not only of our commitment to international law, but of the very principle of the rule of law, for which Britain has stood as a beacon for many centuries. That saw us being instrumental in the founding of the United Nations, which has its 75th anniversary this year. The first General Assembly took place across the square from here. We stood for the rule of law in the establishment of the global human rights regime, the International Criminal Court and a rules-based financial and trading system, let alone the defence of our own interests from the Falklands to Gibraltar. We ask Iran to abide by its nuclear commitments, the Communist party of China to adhere to the Sino-British joint declaration and Russia to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine or take responsibility for poisoning its citizens or using chemical weapons on the soil of this country, or when we rightly support the prosecution of those who committed genocide in Bosnia, Rwanda and now in the case of the Rohingya or the Uyghurs.

This goes well beyond Brexit. We all have our views on Brexit and the Prime Minister’s failure to produce an oven-ready deal. It is about Britain and the type of country we want to be: whether we want to be one that upholds the rule of law and standards, and stands as a beacon for democracy and rule of law in the world, or whether we want to become a pariah. I know that there are many Conservative women and men of courage who say things in the corridors of this place. The question is whether they will stand by their consciences in the vote tonight.