Desmond Swayne – 2020 Speech on the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

The speech made by Desmond Swayne, the Conservative MP for New Forest West, in the House of Commons on 14 September 2020.

The Prime Minister has warned us that a threat has been made to interpret the agreement in such a way as to exclude the possibility of the people of Northern Ireland having access to goods from the rest of the United Kingdom—a threat that clearly shows that those who have made it have abandoned any notion of their binding obligation to negotiate in good faith and make best endeavours to secure an agreement. The Government would be utterly negligent if they were not to take precautions to prevent that from arising; it would be outrageous.

The Chairman of the Justice Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), has said that the powers that the Government envisage arming themselves with should be used in only the most extreme circumstances. I put it to you, Madam Deputy ​Speaker, that breaking up the economic integrity of the United Kingdom is just such a circumstance. This Bill is a precaution. It is a deterrent. The best way to prevent ourselves from being in the position of needing these powers is to arm ourselves with them.

There is a principle in international law, which is that no country can be bound by an obligation that it made when that obligation is interpreted in such a way as to undermine the very integrity of that country. That is a principle of international law, and there is only one court that can arbitrate in those circumstances. That is the court of international opinion, and the world can see exactly what is going on. The world has had its own dealings with the European Union and its negotiations. It has seen its infractions of the World Trade Organisation. It has seen what it has done over the European convention on human rights, and it knows what is going on.

There are those who have said that there is somehow a comparison to be made between the powers that we envisage in this Bill and what China is doing in Hong Kong. That is such a grotesque comparison as to undermine any argument that they might have.