United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:48 pm on 14th September 2020.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 9:48 pm, 14th September 2020

Not at this stage.

The Bill does not walk away from negotiations with the European Union. Those negotiations go on with David Frost and Michel Barnier and with myself and my friend Maroš Šefčovič in the Joint Committee. We are committed to making a success of the negotiations. The Bill is not about abandoning the withdrawal agreement. The withdrawal agreement is there. We are safeguarding the rights of 3 million EU citizens in the UK, just as EU nations are safeguarding the rights of 1 million UK citizens in the EU.

The Bill is certainly not about declining to implement the Northern Ireland protocol. As the right hon. Member for East Antrim reminded us, with some regret on his part, we are erecting border-inspection posts for sanitary and phytosanitary checks in Northern Ireland, even now. We are investing hundreds of millions of pounds in helping Northern Ireland businesses to be ready for the new processes that come with the protocol. If we were not serious about implementing the protocol, we would not be incurring the inevitable resistance, from some, as we see those border-inspection posts erected and traders being prepared for the implementation of the protocol. The idea that we are abandoning it is simply for the birds.

The Bill is also not a threat to devolution. I must turn to my old friend, Ian Blackford. He gave the longest speech in this debate and, like all his speeches, it was true to the John Lewis guarantee: no argument was knowingly undersold. In his gusto to make his arguments and the lyricism with which he made his case, I fear he obscured one or two details. He talked about the threat to water in Scotland, but the Bill and the schedule are clear that water is excluded from the provisions of the Bill. He talked about the threat to the NHS, a UK institution, but if we look at the schedule to the Bill, we see that healthcare services are excluded.

I am perfectly happy to spend more time with the right hon. Gentleman, because it is always a pleasure to take him through the Bill, to calm him and to point out the ways in which it not only strengthens the Union but respects devolution. And devolution is what, indeed, it does respect—