This evening I will be voting for the Internal Market Bill on its second reading. This includes the safety net the Prime Minister has set out which would give us the option to depart from the Withdrawal Agreement if the EU tries to go ahead with the most draconian possible interpretation of the Northern Ireland protocol.
Our widely-respected Chief Negotiator, David Frost, has said this is what the EU has threatened to do. And this would effectively create a trade blockade in the Irish Sea and annex part of this country, undermining the integrity of our Union in a completely unacceptable way.
This is not the sort of behaviour the EU committed to in the Withdrawal Agreement where it pledged to recognise “Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK’s internal market” and to use its “best endeavours to facilitate trade between Northern Ireland and all other parts of the UK”. Crucially, the EU also committed to negotiate in good faith.
But so far, the EU has not negotiated in good faith and held up its end of the deal. Seemingly at every turn the EU has tried to frustrate our desire to become an independent country again, and it has sought to use things like the Northern Ireland Protocol to further its own ideological objectives and curtail this country’s sovereignty and decision making.
Ultimately I hope EU will realise that this Government is a new one and we will not be kowtowed by the EU’s intransigence. Because I believe a simple, mutually beneficial trade deal remains the best possible outcome for both sides.
But we can only go on what we have seen from the EU so far and we must be prepared to respond from a position of strength if necessary. If this means having the option to depart from a deal that the EU continues to breach, then this is what we must do.
I also intervened in the debate on the Bill today to point out how the Labour Party’s leadership has again gone to ground on the big issues. Over the weekend, Keir Starmer accused the Government of reigniting old rows and turning the clock back on Brexit. But it’s inevitable that as these hard-fought negotiations reach their crucial point, there will be Parliamentary time used to discuss them.
It may be politically inconvenient for us to be talking about Brexit for the Labour Party, particularly when it’s led by someone who was a staunch supporter of a second referendum and someone who continues to back Freedom of Movement.
But this Government’s job and this Prime Minister’s job is not to do what’s in the interests of the Labour Party but to do what’s in the interests of this country. This is what this Bill does and it’s why it has my full support. Sticking our head in the sand at this crucial stage will not benefit this country.