United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:20 pm on 14th September 2020.

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Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (International Trade) 9:20 pm, 14th September 2020

The Labour party stands for the rule of law. We stand for the international rules-based system. We stand for peace in Northern Ireland and the settlement that has lasted for 22 years, and we stand for keeping promises to the British people, which then go on to be enshrined in British law. That prompts the question: what do Conservative MPs stand for anymore if they are prepared to break promises on all three of those areas? Why is what they are promising different now from what they promised in a general election—an oven-ready deal, a deal that was the easiest in human history? What changed? What went so wrong? Why are they shouting for more time and saying that they did not have enough time then when they were telling us then that that was all the time they needed and that they did not need to spend any longer scrutinising the legislation, which suddenly they find to have flaws?

There is a serious lack of trust and credibility, as we can see around the world and across these islands, as a result of the behaviour of this Government, supported by far too many of their Back Benchers so far this evening. We heard a Cabinet Minister say at the Dispatch Box last week, in a breathtaking, brazen way, that it was okay to break international law in a “specific and limited way”. It is breaking the law, whether it is in a specific and limited way or not, and that is the reality.

The withdrawal agreement, of which the Northern Ireland protocol is part, is part of the answer to guaranteeing the peace that has been so sacrosanct for the last 22 years. The Government are in denial. They are pretending that it is the opposite. They are pretending that what they said last year was the way of defending the peace is no longer true, and it simply does not stack up.

What of state aid? Today we hear of a deal being done with Japan—that is good news—but with a completely different state aid regime from the one that the Government say they want with the EU. They cannot operate two different state aid regimes. It will not work. When is the penny going to drop for them?

As for standards, the Bill undermines farmers. It undermines our animal welfare standards. It undermines the devolution settlement and it lacks the scrutiny, just as the Trade Bill did before and continues to do—so, too, with this Bill. Ministers will be able to act as they want. This is a bunch of incompetents and chancers at their worst, and they need to think again.