Is the rule of law in jeopardy?
Last Tuesday the UK Internal Market Bill had its third reading passed by the House of Commons meaning that this proposed legislation will now move to the House of Lords. If this Bill is passed it will give ministers in the UK the power to rule against the Brexit Divorce deal.
The Internal Market Bill is being proposed as a way to protect jobs and trading across the United Kingdom after the end of the Transition Period. This will ensure that British businesses will continue to trade freely across each part of the UK and will continue to have unrestricted access to goods from Northern Ireland, protecting the Good Friday Agreement. This proposed legislation is welcomed by many British business owners as it will mean they will not face expensive regulatory barriers between different parts of the UK.
However, many legal professional have voiced their apprehension of the negative impact this Bill could have if it is passed due to the immense power it gives ministers to breach international law. Britain currently has to comply with EU laws on exports meaning that they may face restriction on trading among the UK, this may remain an international obligation in the withdrawal agreement. However, the powers of this proposed bill means ministers can override such obligations.
Although the business secretary Alok Sharma has described these proposed powers as a ‘legal safety net’ if Brussels and England disagree with the Northern Ireland protocol, this bill could present a direct challenge to the rule of law.
Law Society president Simon Davis has explained how "as it stands, the Internal Market Bill risks undermining our international reputation as a nation that is true not only to its word but consistent in its application of the rule of law". This could have the adverse effect of portraying the UK as an untrustworthy trade partner. Simon Davis has stated that the Law Society "urges peers to uphold the rule of law through amendments to the bill".
We will have to await the decision of the House of Lords to see what will happen next with this proposed Brexit bill.