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UK Internal Market Bill: Diplomacy

Volume 682: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2020

What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of the UK Internal Market Bill on the effectiveness of UK diplomacy. (907443)

What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of the UK Internal Market Bill on the effectiveness of UK diplomacy. (907456)

What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of the UK Internal Market Bill on the effectiveness of UK diplomacy. (907473)

Last week the Foreign Secretary told the Foreign Affairs Committee that no one he has met thinks that the UK is not a defender of international law. The reality is that a fellow Cabinet member has admitted that the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill breaks international law. The reality on the ground is that 27 EU countries have begun legal proceedings against the UK, and in the US both sides of Congress have said that they will not support a Bill that breaks the international rules-based order. When will the Foreign Secretary see reality and admit that the UK is acting like a rogue state?

No, I do not agree with that. The measures in the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill are defensive, precautionary and proportionate, to safeguard the integrity of the UK. I was in Washington recently and had very constructive conversations on both sides of the aisle on the hill.

The way that the Government have used the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill to allow the United Kingdom to abrogate an international treaty in recent weeks has seen the UK take a step away from being a normative power committed to an international rules-based order. As my constituent Jagtar Singh Johal now faces his third anniversary in custody without charge in India, will the Secretary of State at least tell both my constituent and the House how he and his Government seek to remind the Republic of India of its obligations under international law, given that his own Government have so flagrantly disrespected it?

I am afraid I just do not accept the assertion, and I do not accept the equivalence. We have very clear understandings in relation to the positions we take in terms of consular access and upholding human rights. We engage with the Indian Government and other Governments across the world. I have never had the pushback the hon. Member describes.

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown), can the Secretary of State specifically outline how and in what ways he believes the United Kingdom International Market Bill strengthens the international credibility of the UK, given that it is in breach of international law?

I thank the hon. Lady. As I have made clear, the Bill is a defensive, precautionary measure to safeguard the integrity of the UK. If the hon. Lady wants to know what people outside the United Kingdom and the EU say about the United Kingdom when it comes to upholding the international rule of law, perhaps she would like to listen to Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader, who said on 5 October in an interview:

“I am really grateful to the United Kingdom. For them to be so vocal, for them to be so brave, for them to be so strong in their position—it was all action. The United Kingdom has really shown itself as an example to the whole world.”

That is what they say about the United Kingdom outside the EU.

My right hon. Friend is rightly addressing the rule of law in a particular negotiation. Will he recognise, however, that the negotiations we are conducting around the world, including with the Japanese Government and the beginning of the conversation with the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership will rely on the UK making deals that will endure the future? Those deals will only endure truly if the UK holds together and values all parts of this United Kingdom. Will he recognise, therefore, that his role is to promote the voices of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland together to make sure all those four nations achieve the best for the whole United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have just signed a deal with Japan, and we have signed a continuity deal with South Korea. We are looking at a second one, and we have ambitions for scoping talks in relation to that, so that we can improve in areas such as data. We are making good progress on Vietnam. That is precisely the way that, in trade negotiations, we will represent the businesses and consumers of all four nations of the United Kingdom, and that is the way we will continue.