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UK Internal Market Bill violates the rule of law and threatens to undermine devolution arrangements, says Committee

16 October 2020

The Constitution Committee has published its 17th report of the session on the UK Internal Market Bill


The Bill makes provision for an Internal Market to replace the EU single market arrangements after the UK leaves the European Union on 31 December 2020. The Bill is of major constitutional significance given its implications for the devolution arrangements in the UK and the rule of law.

The European Union Committee have also reported on the Bill in their 14th Report - The United Kingdom Internal Market Bill: Part 5.

Key Findings

  • The Committee says that the Bill takes an unnecessarily heavy-handed approach to reconciling the demands of free trade within the UK and the need to respect the role and responsibilities of devolved institutions.
  • The report finds that the Bill is unprecedented in setting out explicitly to break international law, and that this both undermines domestic law and is contrary to the rule of law.
  • The Committee calls on the government to remove provisions authorising breaches of the UK’s international law obligations under the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and the Withdrawal Agreement.

Chair's Comments

Baroness Taylor of Bolton, Chair of the Committee said:

“Respect for the rule of law requires compliance with treaty obligations. The Government has not provided a satisfactory justification for the violations of international law under the Bill. This constitutionally dangerous approach is compounded by the fact that the Government seeks in this Bill to put ministerial powers above relevant domestic law —a step that is unprecedented as well as fundamentally at odds with the rule of law. 

“The Bill also provides the Government with powers that could allow it to alter the competences of the devolved administrations in significant ways. As such it risks de-stabilising this integral part of the UK's constitutional arrangements at a time when it has never been more important for central and devolved governments to work together effectively.

“The Constitution Committee calls on the Government to set out a process for consultation with the devolved administrations on the management of the internal market arrangements and to consider the serious constitutional concerns that arise from the UK violating its obligations under international law.”

Further information