LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said passing the Internal Market Bill was essential to ensure the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom.
The following are the key quotes from his statement to parliament:
EU ACTING BADLY:
“I regret to have to tell the House that in recent months the EU has suggested that it is ready to go to extreme and unreasonable lengths using the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way that goes well beyond common sense, simply to exert leverage against the UK in our negotiations for a free trade agreement.
To take the most glaring example, the EU has said that if we fail to reach an agreement to their satisfaction they might very well refuse to list the UK’s food and agricultural products for sale anywhere in the EU. And it gets even worse.
Because under the Protocol this creates an instant and automatic prohibition of the transfer of our animal products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Mr Speaker, are interlocutors on the other side are holding out the possibility of blockading food and agricultural transports within our own country.”
“Absurd and self-defeating as that action would be even as we debate this matter, the EU still have not taken this revolver off the table. I still hope that they will do so. And that we can reach a Canada-style free trade agreement as well.
Indeed it is such an extraordinary threat - and it seems so incredible that the EU could do this - that we are not taking the powers in this bill to neutralise that threat but obviously reserve the right to do so if these threats persist. Because I am afraid these threats reveal the spirit in which some of our friends are currently minded to conduct these negotiations.”
GOODS TO NORTHERN IRELAND:
“I’m afraid some in the EU are now relying on legal defaults to argue that every good is “at risk” and therefore liable for tariffs.
That would mean Mr Speaker, tariffs that could get as high as 90 per cent by value on Scottish beef going to Northern Ireland moving not from Stranraer to Dublin but from Stranraer to Belfast, within our United Kingdom.
Tariffs potentially over 61 per cent on Welsh lamb heading from Anglesey to Antrim. And potentially over 100 per cent on clotted cream moving from Torridge - to pick a Devonshire town at random - to Larne.
Mr Speaker, this is unreasonable and clearly against the spirit of that Protocol. They are threatening to carve tariff borders across our own country, divide our own land, change the very economic geography of the UK and egregiously ride roughshod over their own commitment under Article 4 of the Protocol.”
“Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom. Mr Speaker, we cannot have a situation where the very boundaries of our country could be dictated by a foreign power or international organisation.
No British Prime Minister, no Government, no Parliament could ever accept such an imposition.”
“What we cannot do now is tolerate a situation where our EU counterparts seriously believe that they have the power to break up our country.
That illusion must be decently despatched, and that is why these reserve powers are enshrined in this Bill.”
“Last year we signed the Withdrawal Agreement in the belief the EU would be reasonable. Now, after everything that has recently happened, we must consider the alternative. We ask for reasonableness, and common sense, and for balance and we still hope to achieve that Mr Speaker, through the Joint Committee process in which we always persevere, no matter what the provocation.
What we are seeking to do, is to insure this country, to protect this country, against the EU’s proven willingness to use this delicately balanced Protocol in ways for which it was never intended.”
“I understand how some people will feel unease over the use of these powers. And I share that sentiment myself and I have absolutely no desire to use these measures. They are an insurance policy and if we reach agreement with our European friends - which I still believe is possible - they will never be invoked.”
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Elizabeth Piper, Kate Holton, Alistair Smout and William James
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