United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:37 pm on 14th September 2020.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General) 9:37 pm, 14th September 2020

This Bill is an outrage. We are thumbing our nose at international law, our Irish friends and EU allies, even while still in negotiations with them. It would be farcically funny, were it not so deadly serious. The Prime Minister has been double dealing not only with our international partners but with ordinary people, because the oven-ready deal he sold has been shown to be nothing more than a pig in a poke. That the Bill has been introduced, never mind that it will almost certainly be passed by the Chamber, is extraordinary. It is hugely damaging to the reputation of the UK, and it speaks starkly to the drastic weaknesses and feeble checks and balances at the heart of the UK constitution.

The Bill lays bare the Government’s attitudes to devolution and democratic accountability—in short, they do not care for it one jot. The Government pretend they are merely adopting an EU-style approach to creating a single market, but they are doing nothing of the sort. Where we should have had consent and co-operation, we have imposition; instead of subsidiarity, we have centralisation; instead of minimum standards, we have the starting gun for a race to the bottom; instead of protecting devolved powers, devolved powers are being reserved or utterly undermined.

The Bill speaks more broadly to the direction of travel that we face in the United Kingdom. Instead of a partnership of equals, it is “Westminster knows best.” Yet again, one Parliament—this Parliament—is unilaterally altering the competencies of another, and giving Ministers the power to do so again and again at the stroke of a pen. That does not happen in other western democracies where there would be double majorities, super majorities, and referendums before one Parliament or Government could take powers from another. Perhaps the one positive from the Bill is that it makes plain like never before that the constitution of the British state is not fit for purpose, and it flags up the real dangers that lie ahead if Scotland remains part of it.