14 September 2020 – today’s press release

With UK reputation on the line, the fight is far from over

Responding to votes tonight in the House of Commons on the Internal Market Bill, Liberal Democrat Business Spokesperson Sarah Olney said:

With our reputation around the world on the line, the fight is far from over.

The excuses we have heard for breaking international law from the mouth of the Prime Minister show the depths to which the Conservative party has plummeted.

Backbench Conservative MPs have a duty to follow their conscious and show Boris Johnson that his reckless approach will not be tolerated.

The Liberal Democrats will continue the fight to remove the aspects of the Bill which would break international law and trash the UK’s reputation. We will also keep pushing to ensure devolved administrations have a say when it comes to the UK internal market.

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7 Comments

  • Peter Martin 15th Sep '20 - 7:56am

    “We will also keep pushing to ensure devolved administrations have a say when it comes to the UK internal market.”

    This is, of course, fair enough. But what are they going to say other than they want a UK Single Market just as the EU has its single market?

    This has to apply to NI too. On the 1st Jan 2021 it could, if the UK is denied third country status, be illegal to export many agricultural products, such as cheese, butter and lamb, to NI. Even if we are given the status, the EU rules would, if interpreted in the most literal way, require a up front payment of a tariff of 40% +

    So does the Stormont Govt get a say in this too? The solution is simple enough. The UK asserts the rights to its own sovereignty and passes legislation to prevent this. But it does lead us open to the charge of a violation of International Law or EU law.

    But which is worse?

  • Antony Watts 15th Sep '20 - 8:20am

    We ar enot looking for “which is worse”. We are looking for respect for Treaties signed, and careful implementation.

    The WA can be implemented with the GB-NI border, it will be no different from the GB-France border which we are working on.

    This will however leave NI is a strange position as independent as far as rules and regs are concerned – following the EU, but “nationally” part of the UK. This was supposed to be solved by a Joint Committee and letting Stormont decide every 4 years if this is what NI wanted.

    Stormont may decide to leave the UK and join the Irish Republic, you never know. They did want to remain in the EU.

  • Peter Martin 15th Sep '20 - 8:46am

    There was never any entirely satisfactory resolution of the NI/Irish border problem. That’s was fantasy.

    To enable the Withdrawal Agreement to be finalised, and so to avert the UK leaving the EU at the end of 2019 without one, the NI Protocol was cobbled together. It was a makeshift. It was seen as just enough to break the logjam and get past the next election.

    Even if in the longer term a referendum on Irish unification were to be held in NI and it produced a majority in favour, that in no way helps towards solving the problem of how the EU/NI border is to be handled meanwhile. For all we know it may never happen. So it’s completely irrelevant to this discussion.

    At the time the WA was signed there was effectively a hung parliament at Westminster with, by common consent, the top priority being for a general election to replace the paralysed one, and with a new one having a working majority and a clear mandate to do something. Something very different if Labour or the Lib Dems had won. Given the weakness of its position the government chose to kick the can down the road by signing-up to the hopelessly unworkable WA. But, for public consumption, and with an election in the offing, it tried to put the most favourable possible construction upon it. “An oven ready deal” and all that nonsense. BJ isn’t stupid. He would have known that. He knew what he was doing.

    Ed Miliband was on the right tack yesterday by saying the Govt should have never signed the damned thing! But they did. That’s what has happened and this is where we are up to!

  • Renata Jackson 15th Sep '20 - 1:19pm

    “On the 1st Jan 2021 it could, if the UK is denied third country status, be illegal to export many agricultural products, such as cheese, butter and lamb, to NI.”

    I’m aware from the media commentary that there is widespread ignorance regarding Northern Ireland and this statement deserves being called out.

    First, primary agricultural exports are very largely from NI to GB rather than the other way round.

    Secondly, control of imports into NI from GB is only for the purpose of ensuring such imports are not re-exported into the Republic of Ireland. That control preserves an open border between NI and the Republic of Ireland. It is simply untrue that the rules under the protocol require a 40% upfront tariff to be paid on all imports from GB to NI. No tariff needs to be paid provided there is sufficient paperwork to show consumption in NI rather than exportation into the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU.

    Thirdly, NI has significant agricultural integration with the Republic of Ireland. Half of NI sheep are slaughtered in the Republic of Ireland as there is not the capacity in NI to do so. That agricultural integration will not be possible with a customs border between NI and the Republic of Ireland.

    The UK agreed to the withdrawal agreement, including the protocol. In the Good Friday Agreement the UK agreed that there would be no change in the constitutional position of NI without the consent of its people. The clear majority of NI voters in the 2016 referendum voted to remain in the EU. The protocol represents a compromise between respecting the Good Friday Agreement and NI’s position and not having NI be a fetter that stops the UK from leaving the EU at all. If anything, I would said that as a compromise it is weighted in favour of GB.

    Once upon a time the LibDems were a party that respected the different nations of the UK and devolution and local decision-making. Now it seems they sing from the same centralising, monocultural, state-nationalist hymnsheet as the Tories and Labour already do.

  • Peter Martin 16th Sep '20 - 4:19am

    @ Renata,

    It is fair enough to “call out” something which is untrue, but what I have written is perfectly correct. As the BBC explains:

    “The EU also has a formal list of third countries that are approved for food imports – that’s what third country listing means”

    It doesn’t necessarily mean tariff free imports. Just that such imports are permissible.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/54152583

    Therefore, no third country status means no legal (under EU law) movement of food from GB into NI if the protocol is followed, from 1st Jan 2021.

    Yes, it is true that most movement of agricultural produce is in the other direction. But not all movement. If, for example, a buyer in Belfast wants genuine Cheddar cheese he’ll have to import it from GB. Cheddar is in Somerset which is in England and so also GB.

    Let’s assume that we do get this approval, what then? You’ve said:

    “No tariff needs to be paid provided there is sufficient paperwork to show consumption in NI”

    This is going to be a matter of some interpretation. How is our cheese buyer going to know what will happen to the cheese? He/she won’t have bought it all for their own personal consumption. It will be resold and could end up anywhere.

  • I am a fervant European. BUT there are no votes for us there. We need to “fight” on basic bread and butter issues that daily affect people in their daily lives.

  • “At the time the WA was signed there was effectively a hung parliament at Westminster with, by common consent, the top priority being for a general election to replace the paralysed one”
    Actually Peter Parliament wasn’t paralysed, it’s members were starting to understand that they had a job to do other than to simply follow orders from the party whips and thus were having to form new associations and ways of working, additionally the public were starting to get an insight into just how many MPs were not actually up to the job of being an MP…

    It could be said that Parliament is currently paralysed as most decision making is being made by the Executive with minimal scrutiny and input from MP’s…

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