UK introduces Internal Market Bill to protect trade

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The UK government has introduced in Parliament today a new Bill to protect jobs and trade across the whole of the United Kingdom after the Transition Period ends. The UK Internal Market Bill will guarantee companies can trade unhindered in every part of the UK, ensuring the continued prosperity of people and business across four parts of the UK.

From January 1, 2021, powers in a range of policy areas previously exercised at an EU level will flow directly to the devolved administrations in Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont for the first time. This will give the devolved legislatures power over more issues than they have ever had before, including over air quality, energy efficiency of buildings and elements of employment law, without removing any of their current powers.

Once the Transition Period ends, rules that have regulated how each home nation trades with each other over the past 45 years will fall away. Without urgent legislation to preserve the status quo of seamless?internal trade, rules and regulations set in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland could create new barriers to trade between different parts of the UK, unnecessary red tape for business and additional costs for consumers. Data shows that the combined total sales from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom were worth over £90 billion in 2018, an official press release said.

The UK Internal Market Bill will avoid uncertainty for business by creating an open, fair, and competitive market across the United Kingdom, ensuring regulations from one part of the country will be recognised in another. "Each devolved administration will still be able to set their own standards as they do now, while also being able to benefit from the trade of businesses based anywhere in the UK. The rules in this bill will also bind the UK Government when acting on behalf of England in areas of devolved competence," the release said.

"For centuries the UK’s internal market has been the cornerstone of our shared prosperity, delivering unparalleled stability and economic growth across the Union. Today’s Bill will protect our 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," UK business secretary Alok Sharma said.

"By providing clarity over rules that will govern the UK economy after we take back control of our money and laws, we can increase investment and create new jobs across the United Kingdom, while our maintaining world-leading standards for consumers, workers, food and the environment.

"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," Sharma added.

The Bill will also enable the UK Government to provide financial assistance to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland with new powers to spend taxpayers’ money previously administered by the EU. From January 2021, the UK will be able to invest in communities and businesses nationwide with powers covering infrastructure, economic development, culture, sport, and support for educational, training and exchange opportunities both within the UK and internationally – much of which were previously done at an EU level.

The transfer of powers from the EU to the UK Government will complement and strengthen existing support given to citizens in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland by the devolved administrations, without taking away their responsibilities. The proposals will allow the UK Government to meet its commitments to deliver replacements for EU programmes, such as a UK Shared Prosperity Fund, replacing bureaucratic EU structural funds and at a minimum match the size of those funds in each nation.

The Bill will also set out limited and reasonable steps to ensure that the government is always able to deliver on its commitments to the people of Northern Ireland.

The UK Government has also laid out plans to establish an independent monitoring body, the Office for the Internal Market (OIM), to support the smooth running of trade within the United Kingdom. The body will sit within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and provide independent, technical advice to Parliament and the devolved administrations on regulation that may damage the UK’s internal market.

The reporting and monitoring role undertaken by the OIM will be non-binding and carried independently from ministers and devolved administrations, ensuring impartiality and transparency when developing its evidence. Where there is a matter of dispute, the OIM will ultimately provide such reports to the UK Parliament and each of the devolved legislatures and it will be for these bodies, supported by their respective administrations and intergovernmental processes, to determine how to take action in response, minimising the need to seek court action.

"The new independent Office for the Internal Market will stand ready to provide technical advice to the UK Government and Parliament and the devolved administrations and legislatures on the smooth running of trade within the United Kingdom. The CMA will ensure that the OIM fulfils its role with professionalism, impartiality and analytical rigour," said CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli.