United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:37 pm on 14th September 2020.

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Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee 7:37 pm, 14th September 2020

It has been a pleasure to hear the erudite legal arguments tonight from Members including Jeremy Wright and Sir Robert Neill. I am not an erudite international lawyer, so I see it as it is, and perhaps I will put it in simpler terms. It is an utter shambles. It is chaotic.

We have a history of cheap slogans that are now coming home to roost. When people boil down major international issues into three-word slogans and believe that they are true, this is what happens. We had “Take back control”, when we already decided the vast majority of our laws. We had “Get Brexit done”, when it is not as simple as that at all, as we can see from our being here today discussing it. Then we had the “oven-ready deal”—the deal that was then delivered by the current Prime Minister but is now being undermined by his very own Bill. It threw up squarely and clearly the problems between Brexit and the hard-fought Good Friday agreement, and it is now being ripped up and is causing huge problems, playing fast and loose with devolution.

The impact on the independent decision making of the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive is frankly shocking, especially for a party that describes itself as the Conservative and Unionist party, but that is not entirely surprising. This is a Government who think that the law can be applied differentially. We saw it with the shutting down of Parliament illegally before the last general election. We have seen it with the breaking of lockdown rules for some favoured few. Shockingly, we see it now with the breaking of international law. Sir Bernard Jenkin says that, if we break international law, it should not be done casually. Well, this seems rushed and casual to me. Less than a week ago, none of us knew that this was coming—perhaps not even the Prime Minister—but it has huge long-term impacts.

This afternoon, I chaired the Public Accounts Committee. We were looking seriously at the Government’s proposals around export strategy; the Government have a target to boost exports, which we would all expect. We were challenging the Department about how it was going to achieve that. There is a real will to deliver it, but what country will trust us now if we pass this Bill, which says that we will legislate our way out of any international deal?

In short, this Government are not competent. They have been cavalier, they are undermining the Union and they are damaging the UK’s international reputation irrevocably.