United Kingdom Internal Market

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 18th August 2020.

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Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

The EU defines its internal market as

“an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured”.

The UK internal market white paper proposes the same principles to protect the internal market of the UK and allow the unrestricted movement of goods and services between the four nations of the United Kingdom. I wonder why so many members are ready and willing to accept the basic principle of an internal market from a Parliament in a foreign country and not from our Parliament on these very islands.

The UK Government’s white paper sets out two important principles of any internal market. The first is mutual recognition, which means that goods and services that are produced in one part of the UK are recognised as being as good as the goods and services from any other part of the UK. The second is non-discrimination, which means that it is not possible for one regulatory system to introduce rules that discriminate against goods or services from another. Those two principles are also evident in EU single market legislation, so I ask again why members are happy to accept the exact same principles from Brussels but not from Westminster.

Let us not forget that the proposed legislation is about proportionate divergence, as my colleague Adam Tomkins so expertly explained—[


.] I will not take an intervention just now. More than 60 per cent of Scotland’s exports go to the rest of the UK. In what world would a Scottish Government of any hue not see the value of protecting its largest and most profitable export market? It is clear that the Scottish Government is adopting its usual tactics of faux outrage, constitutional grandstanding and grievance politics.

I ask the minister to do what is right for Scotland, not what her narrow separatist politics demand, and to start engaging constructively with the UK Government in order to safeguard the economy and protect jobs instead of playing the usual constitutional games. If the minister and the wider Scottish Government are unable or—as is more probable—unwilling to do that, the Scottish Government should come clean with the Scottish people and admit that its raison d’être is separation at all costs.

There is an unassailable economic argument for an internal UK market—one that the Scottish Government’s own white paper on independence acknowledged in 2013, stating the need for

“a fully integrated market with products able to be bought” and sold freely

“across Scotland and the rest of the UK”.

The UK Government’s proposals will create certainty for businesses that might otherwise have faced a complex and increasingly fragmented regulatory environment. Indeed, the SNP’s own stated intention is to follow EU rules and regulations to the letter in the years to come, in the vain hope that an independent Scotland can rejoin the EU, so it is obvious that barriers to trade in the UK could quickly become problematic.

It is incredible that, at a time of the greatest economic uncertainty in living memory, the Scottish Government is willing to go against the needs of Scottish businesses and put at risk more than 500,000 jobs that are reliant on frictionless trade with the rest of the UK. I am absolutely astounded that the SNP is prepared to sacrifice so many Scottish jobs to further its divisive party politics.

SNP members are stoking fears of a so-called power grab and a threat to devolution, but the UK Government has made it absolutely crystal clear that all powers that have been devolved will remain devolved. The UK Government has always been a strong supporter of devolution, believing that decisions should be made at the level closest to the citizen they affect.