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The new leglisation will see measures which were previously managed by the EU return to the UK at the end of the year when the Brexit transition period expires policy areas including animal welfare, public procurement rules and environmental regulations. It will also allow UK ministers to overide elements of the Brexit withdrawal agreement in areas relating to Northern Ireland.
UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the legislation would protect the UK’s “highly integrated market” by “guaranteeing that companies can continue to trade unhindered in every part of the UK after the transition period ends and EU law falls away”.
He added: “Without these necessary reforms, the way we trade goods and services between the home nations could be seriously impacted, harming the way we do business within our own borders.
“Now is not the time to create uncertainty for business with new barriers and additional costs that would trash our chances of an economic recovery.”
But tonight the Scottish Government made a last-ditch threat against the controversial proposals with Michael Russell, Scotland’s Constitution Secretary stressing the Scottish Parliament would not give legal consent to the Bill claiming it would strip power from Westminster.
Mr Russell said that the plans demonstrate that the UK is “not a genuine partnership of equals”.
He added this evening: “This is a shabby blueprint that will open the door to bad trade deals and unleashes an assault on devolution the like we have not experienced since the Scottish Parliament was established. We cannot, and will not, allow that to happen.
“It will open the door to a race to the bottom on food standards, environmental standards and will endanger key public health policies such as minimum unit pricing.
“It will also deliver a hammer blow to the Scottish economy by making it harder for the UK Government to conclude Free Trade agreements if other countries think the UK won’t meet its obligations.”
He insisted that Scottish ministers “couldn’t recommend consent to a Bill that undermines devolution and the Scottish Parliament, and which, by the UK Government’s own admission, is going to break international law”.
A Scottish Government source said that Holyrood has “made their airtight views clear” stressing that Westminster was “burning bridges” with Edinburgh over the plans.
Welsh ministers have also backed Scotland’s approach with Counsel General and Minister for European Transition Jeremy Miles MS branding it an “attack on democracy”.
The Welsh Labour politician said: “Let me be clear – the UK Government plans to sacrifice the future of the union by stealing powers from devolved administrations.
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“This Bill is an attack on democracy and an affront to the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who have voted in favour of devolution on numerous occasions.
“Their proposals for mutual recognition may sound sensible but they are the starting gun for a race to the bottom, undermining the high standards we currently enjoy in terms of food standards, animal welfare and the environment.”
But Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the new legislation was about “respecting and strengthening devolution” by ensuring trading between the four nations can continue as it currently does.
Mr Jack said: “Without this legislation there would be a serious risk to our jobs and businesses which is not surprising given the rest of the UK is Scotland’s biggest market, worth £55 billion a year, and a massive 60 percent of all our exports.”
He added: “EU powers are also being returned to us so we can further invest in communities and businesses in Scotland to help us bounce back from the economic shock of coronavirus.
“Our proposals to safeguard the UK internal market are complementary to our ongoing work to develop UK-wide frameworks and I hope the devolved administration will work with us as we take this forward.”
But a Whitehall official dismissed Mr Russell’s comments as “bonkers” and added: “Scotland will significantly benefit from this Bill, they will actually get more powers not less.
“All they [SNP Scottish ministers] want to do is to play party politics and continue to pursue a second independence referendum that will not be granted by Westminster.
“We have made our position clear on this matter.”
Mr Johnson is set to face harsh criticism as Michel Barnier is set to visit London tomorrow after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis admitted that some parts of the revised Brexit legislation would breach international law in a “very specific and limited way”.
It follows news that the head of the Government Legal Department had resigned amid reports he was “very unhappy” with the proposal.
Former prime minister Theresa May warned the Government was in danger of losing the trust of other countries that it would honour its international agreements while Labour described the admission as “absolutely astonishing”.
Downing Street has sought to play down the changes in the Internal Market Bill however insisting they were simply “limited clarifications” to protect the peace process if they failed to secure a free trade deal with the EU.
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