All Brendan O'Hara contributions to the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020

Mon 14th September 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading
2nd reading: House of Commons
Money resolution: House of Commons
Programme motion: House of Commons
2nd reading
Cabinet Office
5 interactions (776 words)

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

(2nd reading)
Brendan O'Hara Excerpts
Monday 14th September 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Bernard Jenkin Portrait Sir Bernard Jenkin
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I do not think it is a matter to be done casually and without very great care, but, as many right hon. and hon. Members, even those objecting to this Bill, are now saying, if the worst comes to the worst, we may have to avail ourselves of these powers, because it is the obligation of this House, first and foremost, to stick up for our national interests.

The EU says it will act against the UK through the European Court, but there is something absurd about the EU attempting to impose its laws on a member state after it has left the bloc—when did the voters endorse that? There is something ironic, even bizarre, about MPs in this Parliament demanding that the EU should continue to impose its laws instead of themselves wanting to make the laws for their constituents—they still do not accept Brexit. One wonders whether the Government recognise better than many here how most voters will react to this. Most of those shouting the loudest now showed how little they understood the voters in the 2016 referendum. Voters will support a Government who are determined to resist the unreasonable enforcement of the withdrawal agreement by the EU. Today, the Government have a strong mandate and a secure Commons majority for taking back control of our laws—voters will expect no less than that and they will give little quarter to this Parliament if they are let down again.

We are in a process of constitutional transition, from being subordinated by the EU legal order towards the restoration of full independence. While we are in this penumbra period of mixed constitutional supremacies, it is unsurprising that this sound of controversy should arise. Our other allies and trading partners will have far more respect for the UK if we stand up for our interests in this way than they will if they watch us accepting that we are to remain indefinitely a non-member subsidiary of the EU. The Government must ensure that there will be a clear end to the jurisdiction of the EU Court; that is the test of whether we are taking back control of our own laws, and our democracy demands it.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
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What a self-made mess this Government find themselves in, and it was beautifully articulated by the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Sir Bernard Jenkin). For three long years this Government struggled to get their withdrawal agreement through this place. So much time was spent on it that I doubt that there was a dot or comma of that agreement that was not known to the Government. In January, they signed a legally binding international treaty. The Prime Minister signed it and described it then as a “negotiating triumph”. Not only was it a negotiating triumph, but, as he told the electorate in December, it was “oven-ready” and good to go. He told the electorate, “Vote for me and I will get Brexit done”, and for reasons that I will never fathom, the people of England did. So in December, flushed with a huge majority, he led every single Tory MP through the Lobby to support his deal. However, the Government now want unilaterally to move the goalposts and renege on what they signed up to at the start of the year. In so doing, they are wilfully prepared to break international law, take the UK’s already diminished reputation further into the gutter and take a wrecking ball to the devolution settlement. Even for this Government that is quite an achievement.

Are Ministers asking us to believe that, despite three years of intense negotiation, they did not actually understand what they were voting for, and that they did not understand what their confidence and supply partners from the Democratic Unionist party were saying about differential arrangements between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK? Are we to believe that they were unable to grasp the implications of their own Northern Ireland protocol—the one they designed with the EU to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland? It is not credible because it is not true.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
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My hon. Friend makes a fine point: it is not credible and there has been bluff after bluff. Is it not the case that when the warnings were pointed out, Ministers stood at that Dispatch Box and said, “Don’t worry, we have a magic solution There won’t be any cameras or infrastructure at the border; technology will solve it all.”? We have technology that can control the movement of people and goods and deal with different customs arrangements”? Yet another bluff from an incompetent Government.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara
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14 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

My hon. Friend hits the nail squarely on the head. That is absolutely true. They knew exactly what they were signing up to and exactly what they were voting on—a fact acknowledged by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster himself, who said in April that the deal ensures that we can leave the EU, and it is “entirely consistent” with the Belfast agreement and all our other domestic and international obligations.

So, how did we get from the agreement being a negotiating triumph in January, and being entirely consistent with domestic and international obligations in April, to today, with a Government boasting that they will knowingly breach international law if they do not get their own way? I believe that, in short, it is because those at the heart of this Government have decided, in true Trumpian fashion, that the UK will no longer play by the rules. They have cynically done their sums and reckon they have the numbers to push this legislation through. It is the behaviour of a Government who have lost their moral compass—a Government who have been reduced to using the Good Friday agreement as a bargaining chip.

It is little wonder that the United Kingdom is fast becoming regarded as a bad-faith actor among the international community, where adherence to international law and the obligations that come with it are what sets us apart from rogue states and dictatorships. The irony of all this is that it emerged against the backdrop of the faux outrage about the last night of the proms and whether it was appropriate to play “Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!”; we know it is a case of Britannia waives the rules. It is not just now; it was ever thus. Ask the Irish and the people of India. Go to large swaths of Africa. Go anywhere that is still recovering from the wreckage of British colonialism and the people there will give chapter and verse about Britannia bending, breaking, inventing and waiving the rules all day long to suit its own ends. The world had hoped and probably half expected that those days were gone; sadly, they clearly are not.

For Scotland, it does not have to be this way: we have an escape route available to us—an escape route with independence that will take us back to the family of nations of the European Union, as a law-abiding European country on an equal footing with every other independent country. It is little wonder that opinion poll after opinion poll has shown a majority for independence. I confidently predict that tonight’s shenanigans will bring that independence closer and Scotland will become an equal member of the European Union, because that is the fast-approaching settled will of the Scottish people.

Imran Ahmad Khan Portrait Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield) (Con)
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14 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

Just like the overwhelming majority of Members, I was returned to this House on the promise of getting Brexit done. I am an ardent supporter of Brexit and look forward eagerly to the opportunity to bolster the United Kingdom’s position by becoming an independent, self-governing nation, possessed of the confidence that flows from our vision and principled values.

Although I stand four-square behind the Government’s policies and objectives, including those advanced by the Bill, I cannot vote for legislation that a Cabinet Minister stated from the Dispatch Box will break international law. Before I was returned to this House, I spent many years in distant, sometimes dangerous places on behalf of our country, our closest friend, the United States, NATO and the UN, where I was committed to upholding the international rules-based system, which is the only shield we have against the law of the jungle. The rules-based system is, of course, one that the United Kingdom was proud to play a central role in building.

I have every sympathy with Her Majesty’s Government and place the responsibility for the impending denouement firmly with the EU, as it haughtily refuses to deal with the UK as a sovereign equal, like our sibling Canada. The Northern Ireland protocol was agreed on the assumption that Brussels would provide an off-the-shelf trade deal with no bells and whistles, as Monsieur Barnier himself offered. That would have involved no more than a light-touch border between Britain and Ulster. The EU has moved the goalposts. The prospect of a no-deal rupture and intra-UK trade tariffs has constitutional implications for the United Kingdom, creating a much harder trade border in the Irish sea than Unionists supposed. It therefore intrudes ineluctably on the Belfast agreement.