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In a report published on Friday by the House of Lords Select Committee on the constitution, peers told Boris Johnson and his cabinet should listen to the SNP led administration at Holyrood and others over the Bill. The Scottish Government described the legislation as a “power grab” whilst counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland raised similar concerns.
Under the new legislation, goods and services sold in one part of the UK would have to be allowed to be sold in another.
But concerns have been raised that the legislation would limit standards across the country to the lowest of the four nations and could effectively strip the devolved administration of some of their powers.
The PM, however, argued the new Brexit bill was a “power surge for devolution”.
It brings further destabilisation over Boris Johnson’s Brexit process after he told the country to “get ready” for a no-deal outcome to the trade talks with the European Union.
In the report released today, Peers said the provisions should be removed or be subject to consultation before being used.
The report said: “The Bill adopts an unnecessarily heavy-handed approach to reconciling the demands of free trade within the UK and the need to respect the role and responsibilities of devolved institutions.
“It provides the UK Government with powers that could allow it to alter the competences of the devolved administrations in significant ways.
“As such, it risks destabilising this integral part of the UK’s constitutional arrangements at a time when it has never been more important for central and devolved governments to work together effectively.”
The report stressed the powers “should be removed or subject to clearer duties of consultation and joint decision-making.”
The Internal Market Bill also features legislation that will break international law, flouting the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 and the Northern Ireland Protocol, which were agreed to facilitate the UK’s departure from the EU.
The report says: “We consider the proposed breaches of international law in the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill unprecedented.”
It also claims the Bill “casts doubt on the UK’s willingness to abide by its international commitments”.
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The committee also took aim at relations between central and devolved government, saying better joint ministerial committee processes would improve the relationship.
Jenny Gilruth MSP, Scotland’s Europe Minister, agreed and said this afternoon: “This report strongly supports the Scottish Government’s position that this legislation is an attempted power grab on devolution and is a damning indictment of the UK Government’s misguided and unnecessary Internal Market Bill.
“Indeed the House of Lords report dismantles the UK Government’s proposals.
“It is now beyond any doubt that this Bill undermines the devolution settlement and constrains the ability of the Scottish Parliament to make distinctive policy choices for Scotland.”
It comes after Holyrood rejected a legislative consent motion on the Bill earlier this month by 90 votes to 28 in a rare move.
Legislative consent motions are a political convention rather than legally binding, and are used to indicate that a devolved legislature is content for the UK Parliament to pass a law on a devolved matter.
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