United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:55 pm on 14th September 2020.

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Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Leader of the Liberal Democrats 7:55 pm, 14th September 2020

I agree with Mr Mitchell: this Bill breaks the rule of law. It is against the national interests, and my party will oppose it. That might not surprise people. We have argued for Britain to work with our European partners at the heart of Europe, but in our opposition to the Bill, I am determined that we represent the views of leave voters as well as remain voters.

From the Prime Minister’s promise that he had an oven-ready deal to his promise that he wanted a global Britain, this Bill breaks those promises made to leave voters. If the Government were to carry out their threat and breach the international treaty that the Prime Minister himself signed, it is clear that there would be no deal. The oven would not even be opened. If the Government deliberately and intentionally break international law, global Britain’s ability to exercise influence in the world would be weaker than at any time since the first half of the 18th century.

As the arch Brexiteer and former Conservative party leader Michael Howard said, what message does this send to China, Russia or Iran? What credibility will Britain have in urging other countries to uphold international law if our great Parliament votes for this Bill? What about the future trade deals that Britain so desperately needs as we leave the world’s largest single market while trying to recover from covid and this deep recession?

Our Prime Minister likes to portray himself as a modern-day Churchill, but Churchill said that the rule of law is part of the “title deeds of freedom”. Churchill will turn in his grave if this Bill passes tonight. Let us remember what we teach our children in every school across this country. We teach them about British values of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. This Bill is against the very values that we teach our children about the importance of obeying the law.

For a Government to send this law-breaking signal would be appalling at any time, but we are in the middle of a pandemic, and if we are to beat this dreadful virus, people need to obey the law, even when the emergency covid laws were among the most draconian that the British people have faced for centuries. The rule of law has never been more precious to the health of our nation, and yet the Prime Minister has chosen this moment to trash the rule of law. This House must stop him tonight.