Your weekly update from the Law Society’s public affairs team on all the latest developments and debates in Parliament and across Whitehall
On 8 December, the EU-UK Joint Committee released a statement addressing outstanding issues relevant to the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including matters related to the Internal Market Bill.
Agreement in principle was found on border checks and the application of state aid under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
As solutions have been found to these issues, the UK government has agreed to withdraw clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the Internal Market Bill, and not introduce any similar provisions in the new Taxation Bill.
These clauses would have allowed ministers to breach the UK’s international obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement.
The Law Society has campaigned against these clauses from when the bill was first published, and we conducted two campaign actions on the issue.
Our concerns on these clauses have been raised in the Commons by spokespeople for the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, and by previous prime minister Theresa May MP.
These joint briefings set out the views of the Law Society of England and Wales and the Bar Council in relation to the Internal Market Bill.
The bill makes provisions concerning the Northern Ireland Protocol and its stipulations on state aid and trade.
It aims to guarantee unhindered trade between Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.
The bill also creates secondary powers allowing ministers to provide financial assistance through regulations.
We have significant concerns on clauses 43 to 47 of the bill.
Although the subject matter is relatively narrow and technical in scope, focusing on trade with Northern Ireland, this is a highly charged political issue not only in the negotiations with the EU but also in the context of the bill itself, which replicates various issues familiar from the EU internal market as principles to be developed in the narrower context of UK domestic law.
It also has potentially serious ramifications for the relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom, and for individuals and businesses with connections to the island of Ireland.
When this briefing note was substantially complete, we were shown a copy of a letter from the House of Lords Constitution Committee dated 14 September addressed to the lord chancellor raising a number of the same issues.
We agree with the concerns expressed in that letter and note the request to the lord chancellor to indicate how these proposed measures comply with international law.
Clauses 43 to 47 of the bill should be removed from the bill for the following reasons:
We've therefore been urging support for any amendments that remove or nullify clauses 43 to 47, and will continue to do so.