This week has been a significant one as it saw the introduction to Parliament of the UK Internal Market Bill.
Some have accused the Government of ‘breaking the law’ and whilst it did prompt me to dust off my old Judas Priest album, the truth is actually a little more complex than that.
So what is all the fuss about and how did we get here?
In short, the Government and the European Union (EU) agreed what eventually became the Withdrawal Act.
This was essentially like a divorce agreement and the transition part of this is due to come to an end on December 31.
Whilst there are many areas that the UK and the EU agree on, there are certain issues where there are still tough negotiations ahead.
Two of these issues are those relating to state aid and fisheries policies.
The argument started because the EU decided to make it difficult with something that Britain believed (and were led to believe) was a formality and didn’t need negotiation – namely it’s listing as a ‘third country’.
A third country is basically any country that sits outside of the EU and its economic structures.
These countries generally have to fill in things such as customs declarations if they want to export goods to the EU – in some cases they also pay tariffs.
The EU has a list of these countries and the different rates or restrictions for each one.
The main reasons for this are it wants to make sure that the goods are of a basic standard and that other areas – such as animal welfare – are adequate.
As it stands, the EU has not given the UK (and specifically Great Britain) a listing and this effectively prevent farmers in England, Wales and Scotland from selling anything in Northern Ireland if the UK and EU don’t reach a free trade agreement.
This is unacceptable to the government and we believe that the EU is therefore negotiating in bad faith, which is actually a breach of our original agreement.
There is no reason at all not to give us a third country listing.
We have identical food and animal standards to the EU, as we have only just left.
No other country in the world has standards as closely matched.
Why is the EU doing this? Because it gives them leverage over the state aid and fisheries policies in the negotiations I mentioned earlier.
This is why the government had to bring in the UK Internal Market Bill and why its priority must always be protecting our precious Union.