“If they pass legislation (the UK internal market bill) then we will have no intention of implementing that”, said Michael Russell, member of Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet. The UK internal market bill would give to Westminster powers to force on Scotland and Wales new standards on food, environment and animal welfare agreed in future trade agreements. These policies are normally overseen by the devolved administrations, but a Westminster-led trade policy could restrict policy flexibility in these devolved areas. In addition, the devolved administrations have no formal role in negotiating or approving trade treaties. Leaked notes and official statements by American officials show US intention to pressure the UK into accepting lower food standards (chlorinated chicken, pork produced with lower welfare standards etc.). A leaked Downing Street memo called for “no specific policy” on animal welfare in the US trade talks. Welsh and Scottish ministers are concerned by the “mutual recognition” regime proposed in the internal market bill, which could force them to accept controversial products from the US.
If the devolved nations do not implement legislation passed in London, the UK government needs to go to court to enforce it. This would apparently be the biggest constitutional conflict between London and Edinburgh since the 2016 Brexit referendum.
A white paper on the bill and the government plans to rush it through in the autumn are expected in the coming weeks.