James Sunderland supports the Bill which will maintain the economic freedoms currently enjoyed across the UK, providing the certainty, security and opportunity that British business needs to survive and thrive.
The first duty of any Government is to protect their people from existential threats: it is called defence of the realm. Given that this overrides all other considerations, we need to see this Bill against the backdrop of our negotiations with the EU. It is not only a necessary piece of legislation in its own right but provides an insurance policy against the EU seeking to divide the Union or subjugate our right to exist as a sovereign trading nation.
The central premise of the Bill is to provide clarity over the internal market, to shed regulation, and to apportion powers to the home nations. This is about not just life after Brussels but supporting countless jobs and livelihoods across our whole country. Given that seamless trade between the devolved nations is proven and sacrosanct, there is no question but that we are better off together within the Union and that those who seek to divide us are not working in our nation’s best interests.
I subscribe to the Government’s insistence that the new powers in the Bill seek to protect peace in Northern Ireland, the integrity of the Good Friday agreement, the viability of the internal market, and the importance of the Union. I am also clear that there must not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and that pragmatic measures are needed to reinforce the sanctity of what has been achieved by politicians on all sides. To be frank, the EU does not have a trump card in this regard, and it is for the UK alone to decide what is best for the UK.
New clauses 4 and 5 are pragmatic; clarifying the role and scope of the Competition and Markets Authority within the wider protocols is necessary. Given that, for example, Northern Ireland exports 1.6 times more to the UK than to the EU and imports 2.5 times more from the UK than from the EU, we must maintain Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK internal market and within its customs territory in the same way that we need to maintain a similar level of integrity for England, Scotland and Wales.
On new clauses 1, 2 and 3, the Bill already contains the safeguards that are needed to uphold the independence of the courts, uphold the rule of law and implement the withdrawal agreement—which, of course, the UK will do. I do not believe it is necessary to impose the environmental safeguards required by new clause 6 for the simple reason that the UK is already at the cutting edge of the green agenda, and that financial assistance to any part of our Union should not be dependent on a climate and nature emergency statement. That will prohibit, rather than enable.
To conclude, I will support the Government at all stages of the Bill. To alleviate doubt, the Bill will allow the economic freedoms currently enjoyed across the UK to be maintained, providing the certainty, security and opportunity that British business needs to survive and thrive. The notion that we should accept a customs border down the Irish Sea or could be consigned by the EU to the status of Myanmar is just plain bonkers. The Bill is needed to ensure that we do not harm the Union or threaten the Good Friday agreement. To be absolutely clear, herein lies the responsibility of every one of us in this place, for the simple reason that we are British MPs and our duty is to the UK, not to the EU.