The Internal Market Bill paves the way for the UK Government to breach international law. The Government insisted unfettered access for good from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK is “critical”. But the proposed legislation evoked backlash and outrage from Westminister and Brussels. Today it will face its second reading in what’s bound to be a box office clash for Boris Johnson’s Government and their critics.
What is the Internal Market Bill?
The Internal Market Bill is a piece of proposed legislation which outlines the legal position of the UK in the wake of the transition period which concludes at the end of the year.
The legislation empowers ministers to provide themselves with the power to determine rules on state aid and goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The draft legislation reads: “Certain provisions to have effect notwithstanding inconsistency or incompatibility with international or other domestic law.”
Essentially, the agreement provides the UK with the power to roll back the terms agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement agreed by the EU and UK.
If approved the Bill would enable ministers to disapply parts of the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement by modifying export declarations and other exit procedures.
READ MORE: Internal Market Bill timetable: Second reading tonight – full schedule
Does the Bill have a lot of support?
The Internal Market Bill is a controversial bill generally, particularly given the clause which empowers the UK Government to breach international law.
Strong Brexit supporting MPs have supported Mr Johnson’s move, however, some have argued for greater clarity about how the UK Government will deviate from the EU’s legislation.
Several other Conservative MPs have expressed concern about the UK going back on its former promises on an international stage.
All five former living prime ministers including David Cameron, Theresa May and Sir John Major have said the move would undermine Britain’s reputation.
Mr Cameron said: “Passing an Act of Parliament and then going on to break an international treaty obligation is the very, very last thing you should contemplate.
“It should be an absolute final resort. So I do have misgivings about what’s being proposed.”
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse today said “in theory” the proposed legislation could break international law, but international law could “accommodate” such a scenario.
He said: “In circumstances where the EU sought to prevent food exports from GB to Northern Ireland, I think that would be a perfectly legitimate thing for us to do.
“To say ‘that’s just not within our sovereign rights and we, therefore, we have a right to supply food into that part of the country’.
“I those circumstances I think… international law would accommodate that.”