A highly complex bill was introduced yesterday at First Reading. This bill is here.
Explanatory Notes for the bill are here.
The Institute for Government has a useful explainer here.
I Blog posted about the possibility of an Internal Market Bill earlier this year. In the meantime, the UK Government published a policy paper and conducted a short consultation.
From 1 Jan 2021, the UK government and the devolved administrations will no longer be collectively bound by EU law. As powers over key policy areas return to the UK government and the devolved administrations, there is a possibility that different parts of the UK may in future make different rules. This could create barriers to trade between constituent parts of the UK.
The UK Internal Market (UKIM) Bill would rely on the principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination to ensure there are no new barriers for businesses trading across the UK.
The UK government argues that this bill will be necessary to underpin the functioning of the UK internal market after the end of the transition period – but the Scottish and Welsh governments are opposed to this approach. Instead, they would prefer to manage any possible new barriers to trade through mutually-agreed common frameworks in specific policy areas.
The government is also using this bill to give ministers powers to amend how the UK could implement the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement – if it can’t reach key decisions with the EU. The government has said that it will use the forthcoming Finance Bill (not yet published) to give ministers further powers with relation to the Northern Ireland protocol.
Clauses set out new monitoring responsibilities of the internal market for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which will be exercised through an Office for the Internal Market (OIM).
The CMA will have powers to monitor and report on the effectiveness of the internal market, under its own initiative or at the request of the UK or devolved governments. Although its remit will be limited to regulations which fall within the scope of the earlier parts of the bill (and will exclude anything giving effect to the Northern Ireland protocol).
The government plans to pass the UK Internal Market Bill before the UK leaves the transition period at 11pm on 31 December – this means there will be limited time for parliament to scrutinise this constitutionally significant piece of legislation.
It will need to pass both the Commons and the Lords before it can become law, and both Houses will be able to table amendments.