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Internal Market Bill: help us defend the rule of law
We've launched an urgent campaign action allowing solicitors and members of the public to voice their concern over potential breaches of international law direct to their MP.
The Internal Market Bill is currently passing through parliament, on its way to becoming law.
The bill makes provisions concerning the Northern Ireland Protocol (part of the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, ratified in January this year) and its measures on state aid and trade. It aims to guarantee unhindered trade between Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales, and also creates secondary powers allowing ministers to provide financial assistance through regulations.
Clauses 41–45 of the bill have been heavily criticised by the Law Society, Bar Council and many other legal commentators. These clauses would give ministers the power to depart from obligations the UK has entered into via international agreements. This itself is a potential violation of the UK’s international law obligations, primarily principles of good faith and sincere co-operation in the Withdrawal Agreement.
There are also provisions on judicial review which are likely to cause conflict between the government and the courts.
We have a responsibility to defend the rule of law, which includes international law, and we're asking you to help us.
The rule of law is a founding principle of our country and ensures that individuals, companies and government remain accountable to each other, and that fundamental rights are protected and enforced.
There will almost certainly be implications for the global reputation of the UK as a country with which to do business.
Negotiations with the EU, and with other countries, will be affected if they do not consider the UK as a credible and predictable trade partner. The measures threaten the UK’s reputation as a global centre for international legal practice and dispute resolution.
Finally, there will be consequences for the UK’s continuing co-operation with other jurisdictions on civil justice and the enforcement of judgments. The bill could damage the chances of the government’s application to accede to the Lugano Convention.
We briefed MPs before the bill was first debated on our concerns, which we have also voiced to senior ministers and officials in Government.
We'll continue talking to MPs throughout the passage of the bill, and working with the press to ensure our views are heard by the maximum amount of people.
We have also launched this campaign action to show MPs that many people are concerned about the bill and the way it damages the rule of law.
You can add your weight to the calls by the Law Society and others to defend the rule of law, and ensure that your local MP hears directly about the consequences of the measures proposed.
While the government has a majority in the House of Commons, several Conservative backbenchers have stated their intention to abstain or vote against the government on the bill due to rule of law concerns. It may be that enough MPs vote against the government to secure amendments removing or nullifying Clauses 41–45 of the Bill, and writing to your MP will show them that some of their constituents want them to do this.