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On 16 July 2020, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a White Paper on the UK internal market in line with the government’s manifesto pledge to maintain and strengthen the integrity of the UK internal market after Brexit.
The White Paper sets out the government’s proposed policy options for preserving access and regulatory harmonisation across the UK internal market, to ‘protect the flow of goods and services across the UK after the end of transition period’. Central to this proposal is the introduction of a ‘Market Access Commitment’ across the UK, supported by the principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination, and enshrined in UK law via a new Internal Market Bill, which would need to be passed by 31 December 2020.
BEIS has launched a consultation, seeking views on the policy options and legislative proposals, but questions have already been raised as to the legal and constitutional impact, as well as the practicalities of applying a UK-wide approach. Though the government promises to respect and uphold the UK devolution settlements, its proposals for centralised UK internal market regulation have been criticised from a devolution perspective.
The key documents published by the government are as follows:
Once the transition period under the Withdrawal Agreement ends, certain EU laws and regulations facilitating broad regulatory harmonisation within the UK market to date will no longer bind the UK. With the limits of EU regulation lifted, certain powers and devolved competences relevant to UK market regulation will be repatriated. With the UK devolved administrations expecting more control in areas such as agriculture, environment, food standards, planning, procurement, certain areas of tax etc at the end of the transition period, the government is seeking to ensure a centralised UK-wide approach to avoid the introduction
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