I have been contacted by a number of constituents regarding the Internal Market Bill and I am aware that it will be of concern to many people in the City of Durham.

I am firmly opposed to this Bill for a number of reasons and I will be opposing it unless the necessary safeguards are put in place. I therefore wanted to explain in detail why I, and the Labour Party, will not support this legislation in its current form and will be voting against it at second reading tonight.

At a time when the Government should be prioritising addressing the coronavirus crisis, getting the best deal for the UK with the EU, and focusing upon tackling the climate emergency, this is an unwelcome and potentially damaging distraction. While I and my party have accepted that Britain is leaving the European Union (EU) and the need for internal market legislation, the Prime Minister seems intent on reopening old arguments. Boris Johnson fought and won a General Election based on his so-called ‘oven-ready’ deal. The fact that he is seeking to renegotiate what he now considers a bad deal shows his incompetence which is once again damaging Britain at a time of public health and economic crisis.

On top of this, the Government’s decision to introduce a Bill that breaks international law by their own admission, is as short-sighted as it is dishonest. Given that the Government is currently seeking to negotiate numerous trade agreements alongside a deal with the EU, to demonstrate a willingness to go back on their word sets an awful example. The damage of this decision to potential trade deals has already been demonstrated by both Democrat Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, making it clearer that breaching the Northern Ireland protocol would jeopardise any trade deal with the US.

Furthermore, the potential passing of this Bill poses a genuine threat to the Union and a rejection of the authority of the Devolved Administrations. As a member of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, I am concerned by the threat this legislation poses to the Good Friday Agreement which must be protected at all costs. In addition, this Bill rides roughshod over the spending powers and responsibilities of the Devolved Administrations and I cannot support that. By introducing this Bill, the Government is creating an unacceptable threat to the Union and I cannot support that.

Finally, I am concerned about standards. This Bill effectively ensures that whichever administration, be it the UK Government or a Devolved Government, has the lowest food standard within the UK, the rest of the country must then accept these standards. Given that hundreds of constituents wrote to me with their concerns regarding food and animal welfare standards in relation to the Trade Bill, I know how important this issue is to the people of Durham.

To be clear, this is not about either supporting or opposing Brexit. I fully accept the decision to leave the European Union, but what I cannot accept is the Government’s inability to negotiate a deal with the EU, as well as the incompetence that has led them to try and change the terms of their own deal so late in the day.

The Internal Market Bill comes before the House today and will be debated for the rest of the month. I will continue to follow developments closely and will update constituents as it progresses. However, unless the Government accept Labour’s amendments and address the significant problems with the Bill, then I cannot support it.

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