Internal Market Bill imposes UK Government's will on Wales and favours the interests of England

Published 26/11/2020   |   Last Updated 27/11/2020

Three Senedd Committees have called on the Senedd to withhold its consent to the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill after the majority of their members expressed serious concerns about it and its impact on devolution if passed.

On 10 September the UK Government published the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill. Constitutionally, the Bill is the most significant of the Brexit process with far-reaching consequences for the whole of the United Kingdom, lasting far beyond the end of the transition period.

The Senedd is now asked to give its consent to the UK Internal Market Bill, along with the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly. However, refusal of consent from the devolved administrations has previously been disregarded by the UK Government, as it was with the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

Three Senedd Committees have considered the Bill and have raised serious concerns about the impact it will have in Wales.

Disproportionately favours the interests of England

The External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee has recommended that the Senedd withholds its consent to the Bill because it:

  • will reduce the Senedd's powers
  • will reduce the effect of many future laws passed by the Senedd, limiting the ability of the Senedd to deliver on the priorities of the people of Wales
  • seeks to impose the UK Government's will on Wales, in a way that disproportionately favours the interests of England

See the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee report here

The Committee is clear that with the size of the English market, compared to the other nations of the UK, the market access arrangements in the Bill will disproportionately favour English policy choices over those of the other nations of the UK. The Bill also provides UK Ministers with powers over how the UK internal market will work in the future. This favours England as UK Ministers act for England only in devolved areas of policy, yet they will have powers to adjust how the internal market operates that can be used without the consent of the devolved governments. 

“The view of the Senedd, Wales’ Parliament cannot be ignored on such an important constitutional issue. The Internal Market Bill could reverse two decades of work on devolution if it is passed. I urge the UK Parliament not to ignore the Senedd’s will as this Bill will reduce the power of the Senedd and reduce the effect of laws made in Wales.

“Laws made in the Senedd are passed on behalf of the people of Wales to address the needs of the people of Wales – this Bill seeks to impose the UK Government’s will on Wales, in a way that disproportionately favours the interests of England.” - David Rees MS, chair of The External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee

Direct impact on the daily lives of Welsh citizens

The Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee has also raised serious concerns about the Internal Market Bill and how it presents a risk to devolution and the stability of the UK. It has also recommended that the Senedd does not give its consent to the Bill.

See the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee report here

It believes that the Bill would:

  • threaten devolution as it stands
  • introduce a disincentive for the Welsh Government and Senedd to innovate in policy and law making
  • undermine laws passed by the Senedd in relation to goods and services that come within the scope of the Internal Market Bill

The Committee outlines how this Bill would have a direct impact on Welsh citizens’ daily lives and how it will add unnecessary complexity for consumers and businesses.

One example of how the Bill will affect people and businesses, is rules on animal welfare differed across UK nations. It could mean that if Wales banned beef treated with synthetic hormones, but the rules were different in other UK nations, then Wales’ ban would be undermined.

“There’s no question that the Internal Market Bill threatens devolution as it stands today. It undermines the Welsh Government and the Senedd and the ability to make laws that meet the needs and aspirations of the Welsh people.

“Sometimes constitutional issues can be seen as abstract and dry but we’re clear that this UK Government Bill, if it is passed, will affect the daily lives of Welsh citizens and impact on Welsh businesses.” - Mick Antoniw MS, chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee

Undermining Welsh Government spending power

The Finance Committee also looked at the Internal Market Bill and raised further challenges in relation to public spending in Wales. The majority of Committee Members believe that the constitutional and financial implications of this Bill passing, in its current form, would undermine devolution and set up the possibility that funding available through the Welsh Block Grant could be reduced.

See the Finance Committee report here

The Committee is raising concerns regarding:

  • the possibility of the UK Government spending in devolved areas, and the implications of this spending on the Welsh Block Grant;
  • the lack of clarity on the impact of the Bill in terms of subsidy control on tax devolution and the possibility that certain tax policies in Wales may be limited or open to challenge; and
  • the lack of progress made on the shape or form of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (the money replacing EU funding) that was announced by the UK Government over three years ago

“This Bill raises serious questions about how money is spent in Wales and who spends it. If the Bill passes as it is, it gives the UK Government power to undermine the Welsh Government and spend money how it sees fit in Wales and could reduce the Welsh Block Grant.

“This totally weakens devolution and the power of the Welsh Government to spend money on behalf of its citizens.” - Llyr Gruffydd MS, chair of the Finance Committee.