Internal Market Bill: A Bill that limits effective Welsh legislation and attempts to recentralise control to Westminster

Published 24/09/2020   |   Last Updated 24/09/2020

The Senedd’s Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee has today issued a statement on the UK Government’s United Kingdom Internal Market Bill - a Bill which sets out proposals for managing trade across the whole of the UK following its withdrawal from the European Union. The statement follows evidence given by the Welsh Government’s Counsel General, Jeremy Miles MS, to the committee on Monday.

The Committee’s view is that, contrary to what the UK Government have said, there are no provisions in the Bill which give new powers to the Senedd – in fact it does the opposite, by expressly including new areas as being outside the Senedd’s powers.

Mick Antoniw MS, Chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee said:

“We recognise and endorse the need for a UK internal market after leaving the EU. But this Bill as it is drafted is not the way to achieve that objective. The common frameworks that all governments have been working and co-operating on since 2017 are the right approach.”  

“As it stands the Bill has the potential to create unnecessary division and appears to be an attempt to recentralise control to Westminster. It is undermining the trust and goodwill between governments, which is an unwelcome distraction in the middle of a global pandemic. We urge the UK Government to reconsider the terms of the Bill.”

How the Internal Market Bill could work in practice

One example of how the Bill could work is if Senedd legislation prohibits the sale of genetically modified (GM) food in Wales, while there is no such prohibition in England. The principle of ‘mutual recognition’ would mean that it would be lawful for producers in England to sell GM food in Wales, despite being prohibited here. As such, the Bill will embed within the constitution a limit on the effectiveness of Senedd legislation.

The Bill also gives the UK Government power to provide financial assistance in any part of the UK, to further UK Government priorities, rather than devolved priorities.

The Committee will continue its consideration of the Bill and its implications for Wales in the coming weeks.