This week the House of Commons has been debating the Internal Market Bill, which seeks to establish the rules for trade within the United Kingdom after we leave the EU Single Market at the end of this year. There has been considerable controversy surrounding this Bill because it contains measures which would allow Ministers to ignore certain provisions within the Northern Ireland Protocol of the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union.
I believe it is important that when this country gives its word in an international agreement, we should stick to it. Other nations will not enter into negotiations with us in good faith, whether they are about trade, peace or security, unless they trust us. We cannot therefore just say that the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement now do not apply. At the same time, it would be wrong for the European Union to seek to restrict or stop altogether trade in food between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, if we were unable to agree a deal on the movement of goods with the EU. I have voted in favour of introducing the Internal Market Bill to Parliament, and I will support its passage if it is amended on one key respect. It should be required that if the Government ever wished to disapply aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement, that it would need the consent of Parliament to do so first. We could then consider this serious request, in full knowledge of the gravity of the situation that had occurred. There would not then be any breach of international law, unless such consent was given. I believe the only excuse for this, would be if we believed that the EU was itself acting against assurances that it gave, when the Withdrawal Agreement was signed.
I have also written this week a joint letter with the leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council David Monk, and the Chairman of Sandgate Parish Council to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. This sets out our objections to the decision by the Home Office to place approximately 400 people currently being held in the asylum system in temporary accommodation at Napier Barracks in Folkestone. We understand that they will be adults and families, but not unaccompanied children, and that many will be young men in their 20s and 30s, some of whom will have entered the UK by crossing the Channel from France in small, unauthorised vessels.
We have raised a number of concerns with the Home Office about these plans asking them in particular what security provisions have been made for the site and the likely impact on the local residential community around the barracks. We understand that this is to be an open facility, and so it is to be expected that those living there will want to make use of local amenities. We have also asked for clarification on the provision that is being made to support local public services, including the NHS, in case these are required to aid those living at Napier Barracks. Equally, will Kent Police be able to access additional funding in case of any impact this facility has on their resources.
We also understand that whilst this is a temporary facility it is likely to be in use for many months and have asked the Home Secretary if she can commit to a maximum period of use for Napier Barracks should these plans proceed.