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UK Internal Market Bill

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The United Kingdom Internal Market Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 9 September 2020 and received its second reading on Monday 14 September. Provisions concerning unfettered access to the UK internal market for Northern Ireland goods are significant for the future of customs procedures after the end of the Brexit implementation period.

Unfettered access would prevent additional checks, controls and administrative processes arising after the end of the implementation period for goods moving from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK. In particular, the Bill would appear to prevent export declarations being required in respect of movements of goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK despite these being required under the Northern Ireland Protocol. This clause is one of a number of measures that would apply ‘notwithstanding any relevant international or domestic law with which they may be incompatible or inconsistent’. It is this wording in clause 45 of the Bill that is proving controversial, particularly in the context of the continuing trade deal negotiations between the UK and EU.

The House of Commons Library has published (and appears to be maintaining) a useful briefing paper which explains the effect of the Bill. As noted in the paper, Part 5 of the Bill would empower UK government ministers to unilaterally disapply parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol by:

  • restricting UK authorities from using their powers after the transition period in a way that might result in the introduction of checks, controls or administrative processes for goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain (clause 41);
  • giving a power to ministers to make regulations to change how exit procedures for goods operate when moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain (clause 42);
  • giving the secretary of state a power to make regulations for the interpretation of article 10 of the Protocol, and further disapply and modify its effects, including disapplying it entirely (article 10 applies EU state aid rules to ‘measures which affect that trade between Northern Ireland and the EU’) (clause 43);
  • stating that only the secretary of state may notify the European Commission of state aid or proposed state aid, and give information about it, if this is required by article 10 of the Protocol (clause 44).

The Bill also proposes changes to the competence of the devolved legislatures by adding a reservation on the provision of subsidies, and by protecting the Act itself from modification by the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments or the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Bill also contains other measures on principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination for goods sold within the internal market of the UK.

The Bill has passed its second reading in the House of Commons, and committee stage is due to begin on 22 September.

Issue: 1501
Categories: News