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The Prime Minister's Statement on the Internal Market Bill (2nd Reading)

Perhaps remarkably, the government's proposed Internal Market Bill has overshadowed the COVID-19 question over the past few days. The bill is the government's response to what it says are EU threats to the ability of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

This is the PM's speech to the House of Commons on Monday September 14, 2020 as the bill moves through parliament.

'Mr Speaker, I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time and this House acts to preserve one of the crucial British achievements of the last three centuries: namely our ability to trade freely across the whole of these islands. The creation of our United Kingdom that has stood for centuries by the Acts of Union of 1707 and 1801 was not simply a political event, but an act of conscious economic integration that laid the foundations of the world’s first industrial revolution and the prosperity we enjoy today. When other countries in Europe stayed divided, we joined our fortunes together and allowed the invisible hand of the market to move Cornish pasties to Scotland, Scottish Beef to Wales, Welsh beef to England and Devonshire Clotted Cream to Northern Ireland or wherever else it might be enjoyed. And when we chose to join the EU back in 1973, we also thereby decided that the EU treaties should serve as the legal guarantor of these freedoms.

Now that we have left the EU, and the transition period is about to elapse, we need the armature of our law once again to preserve the arrangements on which so many jobs and livelihoods depend. That is the fundamental purpose of this Bill, which should be welcomed by everyone who cares about the sovereignty and integrity of our United Kingdom. We shall provide the legal certainty relied upon by every business in our country including, of course, in Northern Ireland.

The manifesto on which this Government was elected last year promised business in Northern Ireland – and I quote - “unfettered access to the rest of the UK”, adding that we would – and I quote – “maintain and strengthen the integrity and smooth operation of our internal market.” This Bill is designed to honour that pledge and maintain those freedoms.

When we renegotiated our Withdrawal Agreement from the EU we struck a careful balance to reflect Northern Ireland’s integral place in our United Kingdom while preserving an open border with Ireland with the express and paramount aim of protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement and the peace process. In good faith we accepted certain obligations in the Northern Ireland Protocol in order to give our European friends the assurances they sought on the integrity of their single market while avoiding any change to the border on the island of Ireland. We agreed to conduct some light touch processes on goods passing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in case they were transferred to the EU and we are conducting those checks in accordance with our obligations, creating the sanitary and phytosanitary processes required under the Protocol, and spending hundreds of millions of pounds on helping traders.