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United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Volume 685: debated on Wednesday 9 December 2020

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the effect of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill on Scotland. (909873)

I have frequent discussions with Cabinet colleagues on the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, which is vital to protect seamless trade and jobs across all four corners of the United Kingdom following the end of the transition period.

Of course, what the Secretary of State did not say is that the internal market Bill is a blatant attack on devolution. That should not come as a surprise, because just three weeks ago the Prime Minister said that devolution was Tony Blair’s biggest mistake—a bigger mistake than even the illegal Iraq war. Does the Secretary of State disagree with the Prime Minister?

What the Prime Minister said was that devolution was a mistake when it was set up to be put in the hands of separatists, and I completely agree with that. I totally agree with it. The Scottish National party is a campaigning organisation for independence—for separation of the United Kingdom—masquerading as a party of Government.

The Secretary of State has regularly explained that, as we leave the EU, the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill will serve to strengthen the UK’s economy and the Union as a whole. Does he feel that the announcement yesterday from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office that Northern Ireland will have the “best of both worlds”, meaning that Northern Ireland will still have access to both EU and UK markets after Brexit, undermines his claims about the Bill?

No, not remotely. What we have delivered on is unfettered access. We promised unfettered access at the time of the withdrawal agreement and we have delivered it.

As the Secretary of State knows, Scotland voted to remain in the EU. The Scottish Government subsequently published a framework for how Scotland could still have access to the single market post Brexit. That was rejected outright by the UK Government. Given that Northern Ireland has been promised the very same thing, will he now make the case for Scotland to get the same concessions, and, like his predecessor, will he consider his position if such a request is not granted?

Scotland is in the fortunate position as part of the United Kingdom of not having a land border that it needs to worry about. The Northern Ireland situation is different—it has special circumstances. We have resolved the problem as we promised we would.

The Secretary of State would do well to remember that the SNP is a democratically elected party of Government in Scotland. Although we take nothing for granted, pollsters continue to suggest that the SNP will win a majority of seats in the Holyrood elections this coming May, and 15 consecutive polls show a clear majority mandate for Scottish independence. Does he believe that his Government’s disastrous internal market Bill has contributed to that rise in support for the SNP and Scottish independence?

There is nothing disastrous about a United Kingdom Internal Market Bill that has mutual recognition and non-discrimination at its base, and that protects jobs in Scotland and people’s livelihoods, when 60% of Scotland’s trade is to the rest of the United Kingdom, worth over £50 billion and, as the Fraser of Allander Institute said only last week, providing 554,000 jobs.

As Mark Fletcher is not here, would the Minister like to give the answer to his substantive question? Then I can bring in shadow Minister Elmore.