I understand there are concerns but I will be supporting its passage through the House of Commons. Its principal purpose is to ensure free trade in goods and services between the 4 nations of the UK after the transition period with the EU ends. It involves giving more powers to all parts of the UK whilst preserving frictionless trade.
The particular clauses that are being alleged to breach international law are to ensure that goods are not restricted between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which has been threatened by the EU. The clauses do not breach international law themselves, that only becomes a potential issue if they are used – and as the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons this week when introducing the Bill, he does not want to have to use them:
“I say to my right hon. and learned Friend that I have absolutely no desire to use these measures. They are an insurance policy, and if we reach agreement with our European friends, which I still believe is possible, they will never be invoked. Of course, it is the case that the passing of this Bill does not constitute the exercising of these powers.
If the powers were ever needed, Ministers would return to this House with a statutory instrument on which a vote—perhaps this is the question to which the hon. Gentleman is awaiting an answer—would be held. We would simultaneously pursue every possible redress—to get back to the point I was making to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill)—under international law, as provided for in the protocol.”
The Government remains committed to getting a good trade deal with the EU that means the clauses will never be used. But should negotiations with the EU reach a point at which they refuse to allow goods to move to Northern Ireland without restriction, that would be completely unacceptable, which is why I support the Bill.