Thank you for contacting me about Brexit and the Internal Markets Bill.
My overriding principle to Brexit is simple – we must get Brexit done. That is the promise that the Prime Minister and I made to the residents of Stourbridge and that is what we will deliver on. The UK Internal Market Bill will help us in this endeavour.
Whilst the U.K. left the EU on 31st January 2020, we still need to negotiate our future relationship and implement the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes the UK’s agreed arrangements that need to be put in place to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
I have supported the UK Internal Market Bill at all stages throughout it’s passing through Parliament and will continue to support the efforts of the Government to protect our United Kingdom.
Despite much talk of the Government’s obligations and commitment to international law, the debate on this issue has been filled with misleading claims and false assertions about what this bill is intended to do.
I am committed to upholding the rule of law and I know of not one of my colleagues on the Government benches that does not share this view. Any claims that the Government does not respect the law due to the provisions within this bill are simply untrue.
Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the EU and the U.K. committed to establish a Joint Committee to deal with the application of the Agreement, which has been meeting for the past few months. If we do not reach the end of the transition period on 31st December this year with a free trade deal, the Prime Minister is right to ensure a safety net by virtue of the Internal Markets Bill. No British Prime Minister could accept trade flows between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K being governed or disrupted by an external power, the EU. If there is no free trade agreement, we have no choice but to protect our Union. The U.K. needs powers in reserve to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement, as well as our Union, is protected. These powers are provided for in the Internal Markets Bill. The Prime Minister is essentially putting the Good Friday Agreement before the Withdrawal Agreement and if he needs to include clauses in the Internal Markets Bill which conflict with the Withdrawal Agreement to protect our Union, then so be it. It might urge the EU to act in good faith and agree a free trade deal. The government has been put in this position only because the EU has failed to honour its side of the Withdrawal Agreement and is failing to act in good faith.
Sir David Frost, the U.K.’s negotiator, is very clear that the EU has not been acting in good faith regarding the third country listing of the U.K. as regards food products. On 14th October 2019, the UK secured approval to continue exporting animals and animal products to the EU if we left without a deal on 31st October that year – providing certainty for a market worth around £5.7 billion a year. The then Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers confirmed that EU member states had granted the UK ‘national listed status’, which ensures exports of live animals and products of animal origin, such as meat, fish and dairy, could continue.
The relevant clauses in the Internal Markets Bill is intended as a safety net to ensure protection of our Union and the Good Friday Agreement if agreement between the EU and the U.K cannot be made.
It is well known that negotiations for a free trade deal, which would negate the Withdrawal Agreement, have been fraught, with the U.K. not prepared to give way on our sovereign waters, certain state aid aspects of the level playing field and governance. The EU is intransigent over these three main areas. Instead of blaming the UK’s Prime Minister and negotiating team, it is the EU which must act in good faith to secure a free trade deal, or it will have to accept that the UK can confirm our sovereignty in primary legislation by way of amendment to the detail of the Withdrawal Act. It is the EU which cannot accept UK sovereignty by not agreeing a free trade deal that it signed up to do.
We have all witnessed the EU’s intransigence time and time again on 3 main issues; fisheries, level playing field (particularly in terms of state aid) and governance. Michael Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, repeatedly criticises our Government and our negotiators for not compromising on these areas, but why should we? Other countries, such as Canada, Japan and others, as independent and sovereign countries, have not been required to consider these issues in their free trade deals with the EU.
There is a bigger picture here to remember. On the 23rd June 2016 the British people gave an instruction to the Government and Parliament, that the UK will be leaving the EU. Two thirds of people in Stourbridge voted to leave. Four years later, we now have a Conservative majority Government elected to get Brexit done. That was our promise in December 2019, and I am determined, as is the Prime Minister, that we deliver on that pledge.
The British public want us to get on with delivering Brexit and it is our responsibility to do so. Faced with the choice of supporting our Union or the European Union, I know whose side I am on.