Boris Johnson’s controversial post-Brexit trade plan for the UK will go ahead regardless of whether the devolved nations agree to it, MSPs have been told.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said implementation of the Internal Market Bill “will not be paused” even if the Scottish Parliament withholds legislative consent.
Legislative consent motions are normally required for the UK Parliament to pass laws that involve devolved matters, but Mr Gove said the UK’s exit from the EU was not “a normal occurrence” and thus normal rules did not apply.
“I hope that we will secure legislative consent, but of course it’s vitally important that we safeguard the UK internal market,” he said.
Asked whether the UK Government would pause plans if consent was withheld, he told MSPs: “No, we won’t pause on the implementation of the Bill, but what we will seek to do is to properly and better understand any concerns.”
Mr Johnson’s government introduced the legislation in an attempt to ensure trade between the four nations of the UK can continue seamlessly when the Brexit transition period ends.
However, the Scottish Government has warned the Bill will “open the door to a post-Brexit race to the bottom” that will see devolved administrations “overridden” in key areas.
Mr Gove, appearing before the constitution committee, said concerns over the Bill were “misplaced” and had been stirred up by “misinformation and myth making”.
“I think it’s important to recognise that while the United Kingdom was in the European Union, the operation of all of our legislatures was constrained by EU law, now that we’re outside, all of the legislatures will have more power,” he said.
Labour MSP Alex Rowley raised concerns that the Bill “could pave the way” for cosmetics tested on animals to be sold in Scotland.
Mr Gove responded: “They’re stories to scare children at bedtime, they’re not real reflections of policy.
“The UK Government has been a world leader when it comes to animal welfare outside the EU; we can, for example, limit live animal exports or we can also ban the import of fur.
Our NHS is not for sale under any circumstances.”
“The idea that the UK Government would somehow compromise our high animal welfare standards is for the birds.”
Mr Gove responded in similar fashion when asked if the Bill could open the door for an NHS sell off.
He said: “It’s one of the most absurd, ludicrous and, frankly, irrational fantasies that I’ve heard in my political lifetime.
“Our NHS is not for sale under any circumstances.”
Mr Gove also took aim at the Scottish Government’s plan to copy over EU rules in devolved areas, saying it could “impede access” to the rest of the UK market.