Bishop's Stortford MP Julie Marson defends support for Government's 'law-breaking' Bill
Bishop's Stortford's MP has defended her decision to vote for the controversial Internal Market Bill on Monday.
Conservative Julie Marson, a former magistrate and daughter of a policeman, backed the Government despite concerns the proposed legislation to amend the UK's Brexit deal with the European Union will break international law.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis had conceded it would go against the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated last year in a "specific and limited way".
However, Mrs Marson and her fellow local Tory MPs, Kemi Badenoch of Saffron Walden and Harlow's Robert Halfon, were among 340 who backed the Bill, which was opposed by 263, including two Tory rebels. A further 30 abstained. Former Prime Ministers Theresa May and John Major and ex-Chancellor Sajid Javid are among senior Conservatives who have voiced concerns.
Mr Javid said: "While I fully backed every measure necessary to get the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated and passed by Parliament, I cannot support the UK pre-emptively reneging on that agreement."
Tory MP Rehman Chishti resigned as Prime Minister Boris Johnson's special envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief in opposition to the clauses in the Bill and the Government's most senior lawyer, Permanent Secretary of the Government Legal Department, Sir Jonathan Jones, also stepped down.
But Mrs Marson said: "This is a good Bill and a necessary Bill as we leave the EU. It does not break any law, domestic or international. It is a Bill I was very happy to vote for at second reading to enable the details to be debated fully at committee stage. The UK's internal market has functioned seamlessly for centuries, and as the transition period ends, we will ensure our four nations continue to thrive as one."
She was elected to serve the Hertford and Stortford constituency in last December's General Election, and during the campaign and in Parliament since she has made much of her support for law and order.
Mrs Marson's father was a policeman and she served as a magistrate. Last week in the Commons she pressed Kit Malthouse, the minister of state for crime and policing, to ensure constabularies had the law enforcement powers they needed.
However, when challenged on any apparent contradiction between upholding the law and her support for the Internal Market Bill, she described the controversial provisions as merely a safety net.
Ministers say they are safeguards to protect Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK if negotiations on a future trade deal break down, while critics argue the UK risks damage to its reputation by breaching international law.
Mrs Marson said: "The Bill also puts in place reasonable steps to create a safety net to be used only in extremis that ensures unfettered trade across the United Kingdom, avoiding new burdens and barriers in order to protect jobs and support our recovery from coronavirus."
What readers have to say in the Letters pages of this week's Indie
As a youngster, I was proud that both my grandfathers had served in the First World War and that my father, a rear gunner in Bomber Command, risked his life over enemy territory several times a week during the Second World War.
At 16, I volunteered and served 11 years as a professional soldier (14 including reserve service) during the Cold War and Vietnam eras.
Until now, I had always felt great pride in my country. That pride was destroyed when the Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, read out (on behalf of the Government) a statement in the Commons, saying that the Government was preparing to break international law in a “specific and limited way”, by reneging on an international treaty (the EU Withdrawal Agreement).
Then the Secretary of State for Justice/Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, stated on TV that he would resign if the UK ended up breaking international law “in a way he finds unacceptable”. What kind of law breaking does Buckland, a barrister, find acceptable?
How can I continue to be proud of a country willing to break not only its word, but even the law?
Following my military service, I had a career in sales and marketing, and learned early on that it takes years to build a good reputation, which can then be lost in an instant. Britain had a reputation for upholding international law, justice and human rights. That reputation is now in the mud. Who will trust us in future?
However, if enough good MPs vote against the Bill currently going through Parliament, we may be able to recover our position. I wonder if our MP Julie Marson, previously a magistrate tasked with upholding the law, has the courage and decency to vote against her patron, Johnson?
Windhill, Bishop’s Stortford
I was aghast to hear the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, in the House of Commons last week openly stating that the Government is proposing to bring forward legislation that he admits will break international law.
How can we credibly complain about China breaking an agreement on Hong Kong that it made with the UK in 1997 when the UK itself is planning to renege on an agreement made less than a year ago by the current Prime Minister and ratified by the current Parliament?
Closer to home, this behaviour will further diminish the Government’s authority in trying to encourage people to observe the newly-introduced ‘rule of six’, which aims to prevent the spread of Covid-19. If the Government will not honour agreements that it willingly signed up to, it should not be a surprise if individual citizens do not all follow the arbitrary rules that it has imposed on them.
This episode comes on top of the notorious breaches of the previous lockdown by Dominic Cummings which went unsanctioned earlier in the year. I therefore worry that this continuing attitude of selective regard for the law from those in power will lead to public indifference to the rules surrounding Covid-19 and to even more unnecessary deaths.
This legislation has been condemned by five former Prime Ministers, both Labour and Conservative, and I would have expected our MP, Julie Marson, to have joined them.
As a former magistrate, she must surely agree that adherence to the rule of law is fundamental not just to our position on the world stage but also to how we function cohesively as a country. I was therefore surprised that she supported this legislation when it was voted through the House of Commons on Monday.
There is a final vote to come soon, so I hope that she is able to take the time to reflect on the consequences for our country’s reputation and her constituents’ health, and oppose it in that final vote.
Havers Lane, Bishop’s Stortford
I am deeply concerned by the Government’s plan to break promises made in the Withdrawal Agreement, an international treaty signed less than a year ago.
The Internal Markets Bill would renege on commitments to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and set back negotiations with Europe to square one.
The Conservatives pride themselves on being the party of law and order, of economic stability and of the Union. Now the Government is openly breaking international law and paving the way to a no-deal economic disaster. How can the Conservative and Unionist party jeopardise the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland?
The Prime Minister does not speak for ordinary Conservatives. He was elected to deliver a comprehensive, ‘oven-ready’ deal with Europe which would help communities and businesses. Yet his actions threaten not only the reputation of the Conservative party, but the global reputation of the UK as a trustworthy nation.
Sidney Terrace, Bishop’s Stortford
As Liberal Democrats, we are absolutely appalled by the Conservative Government’s plans to act illegally by breaking the international treaty which it signed with the European Union just a few months ago.
The spectacle of a Government minister standing up in the House of Commons and openly admitting that this was what the Government planned to do was shocking, sickening and frightening.
The Government has rejected the advice from its own legal advisers and from other, independent lawyers. It is being criticised by several former Prime Ministers.
In the past, Britain has been regarded internationally as a law-abiding and trustworthy country which honoured its treaties and promises. The shameful act which our Government is now contemplating will destroy this reputation forever.
We cry: “Shame on you, Government! You do not act in our name. Shame on you!”
Mione Goldspink, Chris Wilson, Louie Corpe, Terence Beckett, Calvin Horner, Bob Taylor, Richard Townsend, Paul Tenconi, Stephen Skinner, Richard Phillipson, Colin Gauld-Clark and John Watkins
Bishop’s Stortford Liberal Democrats
With the latest chapter of the Brexit non-negotiations – the Internal Markets Bill which it is openly admitted would break international law – I am left wondering if this is the Conservative party that the electors of Bishop’s Stortford voted for.
I have to agree with John Major that whilst we might not rule the waves, our word is trusted – until this Bill is published.
If we lose that, we as a nation have lost the confidence and our reputation in the eyes of the world – something that will take a lot longer to rebuild and will also make trade deals even harder as the UK cannot be trusted to keep and uphold treaties.
Greenhill Park, Bishop’s Stortford