Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit blueprint for Britain moved one step closer to becoming law on Tuesday night, with warnings the plan “could break up the UK”.
The Internal Market Bill sailed through third reading by 340 to 256 votes and will now head to the Lords for further scrutiny.
The Bill is designed to replace European Union rules and standards and preserve seamless cross-border trade between the UK’s four nations at the end of the transition period.
The legislation has caused controversy in a number of areas, not least due to its provisions that would allow the UK Government to overturn provisions in the Brexit divorce deal.
There is also widespread anger in the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments that the Bill gives Westminster power to spend in devolved areas.
Shadow business minister Lucy Powell warned the Bill “could break up the UK”.
Her colleague Ed Miliband, wrapping up the debate for Labour, said: “We on this side believe deeply in our union but the strength of our union relies on sharing power, not centralising it, and this Bill does not learn that lesson.
“It makes the choice to impose the rule that the lowest regulatory standard in one Parliament must be the standard for all without a proper voice for the devolved administrations.”
Mr Miliband said the Bill would mean powers being devolved “in name only” and shared his fear that it would “strengthen the hand of those who want to break up the UK”.
The SNP’s Scotland spokeswoman, Mhairi Black, speaking earlier in the debate, said: “This Bill explicitly gives any minister of the Crown permission to run riot with the very assets of Scotland that our Scottish Parliament has protected.”
Independence, she said, “is the only option left for Scotland”, adding: “This is a union that England dominates. The only reason there isn’t an English Parliament is because the people in Westminster view this place as the English Parliament, and we can’t afford to be naive. The only way to protect our Parliament is to become independent.”
She added: “It took us 300 years to get our Scottish Parliament and 20 years for this place to put a bulldozer right through it.”
A ‘very good’ offer for Scotland
Without the legislation the UK Government have warned more than half a million jobs are at risk in Scotland.
North-east MP Andrew Bowie said the Bill was a “very good” offer for Scotland.
“I am a little bit perturbed at the SNP’s opposition to what is a very good Bill, a Bill that is pro-business, pro-consumer and ultimately pro-Scotland,” Mr Bowie told the Commons.
“This is a very good Bill for Scottish people, for Scottish businesses and for Scottish consumers, for the entire United Kingdom.”
Bill a ‘legal safety net’
Business Secretary Alok Sharma, speaking at third reading, told MPs the Bill would give “regulatory clarity and certainty”.
Addressing the controversial elements of the Bill which enable the UK to override the Withdrawal Agreement, Mr Sharma said: “The reason we have taken powers to ensure that in the event we do not reach an agreement with our EU friends on how to implement the (Northern Ireland Protocol) is so we’re able to deliver on our promises in our manifesto and the command paper.
“This is a legal safety net that clarifies our position on the Northern Ireland Protocol for protecting our union, businesses and jobs.”