The writer, a former Conservative cabinet member, is MP for Chingford and Woodford Green
The UK has reached a critical moment in securing its post-Brexit future. This week, Boris Johnson’s government introduced important legislation, the internal market bill, to ensure the maintenance of a free market in goods and services within the four nations of the UK after leaving the EU.
There has been notable concern about the bill’s proposals to restrict the “direct effect” of three parts of our withdrawal agreement with the EU with respect to Northern Ireland. Among other things, the bill would prevent the imposition of EU tariffs on all goods sent from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
I believe the government is right to do it and the outcry is overwrought.
What critics seem to have forgotten is that the Brexit agreement makes clear that Northern Ireland is part of the UK’s customs territory. Goods should be allowed to flow between Great Britain and Northern Ireland without tariffs unless they are deemed “at risk”. The problem is that the “at risk” category is not defined.
This gives the EU too much discretion because it could in theory define all UK products as “at risk” if it wishes and levy tariffs on all goods as they cross the Irish Sea. Such a possibility…