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by Liam Kirkaldy
30 September 2020
MPs vote to pass Internal Market Bill


MPs vote to pass Internal Market Bill

MPs have voted to pass the controversial Internal Market Bill, overriding parts of the UK Government’s Brexit agreement with the EU.

The legislation was passed by 340 votes to 256, despite concerns over its impact on devolution and with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis conceding the plans break international law.

The UK’s five living former prime ministers - Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May - have argued against the plans.

The UK Government claims the legislation, which will now go to the Lords, is required to preserve the integrity of the UK.

Speaking in the Commons, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the legislation would protect the "shared prosperity" of the UK's nations.

He said: "It demonstrates that, as a union, our country is greater than the sum of its parts."

But opposition parties argue that backtracking on the agreement with the EU will damage the UK’s reputation, while others have warned the bill would undermine the devolution settlement, handing UK ministers new powers over devolved areas, and overriding decisions made by MSPs.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament finance committee, Professor Michael Dougan, from Liverpool University warned of its impact.

He said: “The bill’s planned regime would positively magnify England’s inherent advantages yet further and risk rendering the exercise of many devolved powers redundant in practice.

“After all: English choices would be able to produce their full effects within Scotland and Wales, on a scale that could simply overwhelm the latter’s own preferences.”

He adds: “The real problem is the sheer empirical fact that, without proper constraints and processes, a strong UKIM system will magnify England’s existing economic and constitutional dominance yet further – and do so to the clear cost of the existing devolution settlements.”

But appearing before MSPs yesterday, Michael Gove rejected claims the bill could lead to a "race to the bottom" in regulations on areas such as animal welfare or housing standards.

He said: "The idea the UK government would compromise our high animal welfare standards is for the birds.

"It may be a lurid fantasy for some that it's the secret agenda of the UK government to use this as a Trojan horse to privatise the NHS, but that's one of the most absurd, ludicrous and irrational fantasies I've heard in my political lifetime. The NHS is not for sale under any circumstances.

"There are some people who are anxious to spread myths about the UK government, but if you look at the evidence you will see the way we have supported the NHS and invested in the NHS in an unprecedented way. The whole thing is ludicrous."

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