Internal Market Bill a ‘step too far’ and Lords may reject it, Labour peer warns

Baroness Helena Kennedy
Baroness Helena Kennedy
12:13pm, Thu 01 Oct 2020
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The House of Lords could reject controversial post-Brexit legislation, a Labour peer has said.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC accused the UK Government of “tearing up” the law after the Internal Market Bill was passed by the House of Commons.

But she claimed members of the House of Lords, with their “huge experience from being involved in the international domain”, could reject the Bill as being a “step too far”.

She said the legislation represents a “flagrant breach of international law”, as she accused Boris Johnson’s Government of acting like US President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Bill has been introduced by the Government in a bid to ensure trade between the four nations of the UK can continue to operate smoothly when the Brexit transition period comes to an end on December 31.

But it has provoked widespread criticism from the devolved administrations, with the Scottish Government having already confirmed it will not consent to the “power grab” Bill – although this will not prevent Westminster from pressing ahead with it.

We expect compliance with international law around the world, and for our Government not to be doing this is really shocking

With the UK Government having conceded the legislation breaches international law, it also prompted the resignation of Lord Keen of Elie, who as Advocate General for Scotland was the Prime Minister’s most senior adviser on Scots law.

Baroness Kennedy branded Mr Johnson and his Government “adolescent men who don’t like law and who are prepared to undermine it in their own interests”.

She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “This is a flagrant breach of international law. Even putting this Bill though the House and passing this legislation is a breach of international law.

“We expect compliance with international law around the world, and for our Government not to be doing this is really shocking.

“People come to the courts in the United Kingdom because our judiciary is respected, our respect for the law is one of our badges, a badge of honour. Well it’s gone down the swanny now because of this Government.

“This is a really shocking business, and we shouldn’t take it lying down, we should recognise the seriousness of it.

“It loses us not just our respect in the world, it loses us our soft power in the world. This is really scandalous.”

Asked if peers will seek to amend the legislation, she said: “Forget about amending it, we are going to be voting against it and there will be opportunities to do that.

“You are going to have a lot of very powerful voices speaking about what this does to Britain in the world.

“This is Trumpism, this is what this is, this is Trumpism, which is you tear down the very things that have been built up in the rules-based world since the end of the Second World War.

“So the House of Lords, with all of the huge experience from being involved in the international domain, are all going to say ‘this is a step too far’.”

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