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Internal Market Bill: Brexit legislation gives an ‘effective veto’ over Scottish Parliament

Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson’s controversial Brexit legislation proves Scotland will never be an equal partner in the UK, the SNP has warned.

Inverness MP Drew Hendry said the Internal Market Bill, which cleared its first Commons hurdle last night, would give the UK Government an “effective veto” over the Scottish Parliament.

Ministers have denied the Bill, which sets the legal framework for the UK internal market following Brexit, represents a power grab but instead offers a “power surge” by handing more powers to the devolved governments.

Mr Hendry, speaking on the first day of the Bill’s committee stage, said: “We cannot and we will not accept this legislation in any form.

“Under the unelected Dominic Cummings, Britain’s prime minister is forcing this power grab through despite overwhelming opposition from the Scottish Parliament and MPs.

Dominic Cummings.

“It proves that Scotland will never ever be accepted as an equal partner in the UK.

“This attacks the foundations of devolution and gives Westminster and an unelected quango a freehand to overrule the Scottish Parliament in devolved areas, threatening our NHS, our food and environmental standards and fires the starting pistol on a race to the bottom.”

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath SNP MP Neale Hanvey called the proposed Office for the Internal Market, which would rule on any cross-border disagreements between the devolved authorities, an ‘office of inquisition’.

He said: “This office of inquisition will have the power to pass judgement on devolved laws, and could quickly become the target of rich corporate lobbyists determined to see activities such as fracking go ahead against the will of the Scottish people.

“Wide ranging powers that cut to the very heart of a devolution settlement across every policy area, powers they claim they will never use, they’re just there in case.

“Well Scotland isn’t buying it and we’re not having any of it.”

The comments came as Downing Street warned peers not to try to derail the Bill when it arrives in the House of Lords.

A Number 10 spokesman said ministers believed the Salisbury Convention – which states the upper chamber should not vote down legislation to implement government manifesto commitments – should apply to the Bill.

“We would expect the Lords to abide by the Salisbury Convention,” the spokesman said.

“Guaranteeing the full economic benefit of leaving the EU to all parts of the United Kingdom and ensuring Northern Ireland’s businesses and producers enjoy unfettered access to the rest of the UK were clear Conservative manifesto commitments which this legislation delivers.”

The Bill passed its second reading in the Commons on Monday evening by 340 votes to 263 – a Government majority of 77.

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