Holyrood urged to refuse Internal Market Bill consent

The Scottish Government said on Monday it will recommend that Holyrood refuse consent for the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill on post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The UK Government has introduced the controversial legislation in a bid to ensure trade between the four countries of the UK can continue as before when the Brexit transition period comes to an end.

But a Legislative Consent Memorandum (LCM) – lodged with the Scottish Parliament by Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell – said the Bill “undermines devolution” and breaches international law.

“To recommend consent would therefore be incompatible with Scottish Ministers’ responsibilities under the Ministerial Code,” said the Scottish Government.

The LCM claims the Bill:

  • undermines the devolution settlement and agreed ways of working across the UK following EU exit
  • risks more uncertainty and confusion for business and consumers
  • encourages harmful deregulation without democratic accountability or proper Parliamentary scrutiny
  • explicitly gives UK Ministers wide new powers in currently devolved areas of economic support and allows for breaches of international law

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said: “This is a defining moment that will determine both the future of the Scottish Parliament and whether or not the UK can be described as a partnership of equal nations.

“UK Government ministers have accepted the Bill will break international law.

“It would be equally outrageous if they decided also to break the constitutional convention that the Westminster Parliament does not legislate in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

“The UK’s established constitutional rules mean that the consent of the Scottish Parliament is required for the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill to proceed. 

“If the Parliament refuses to grant consent then that should kill the Bill stone dead.

“It will demonstrate beyond all doubt that the UK Government does not believe the UK to be a partnership of equals.

“This Bill opens the door to a post-Brexit race to the bottom and will mean democratic decisions of the Scottish Parliament on public health, environmental standards, food standards and a range of other key areas can be over-ridden.

“The Scottish Government will ask the Parliament to make a decision on whether to grant consent next month and the memorandum we have published today sets out in detail why we could never recommend the Parliament agrees that its powers should be eroded so fundamentally.”

The UK Government’s Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has already said the UK Government plans to press ahead with the legislation – without the backing of the Scottish Parliament if necessary.