The UK Internal Market has underpinned free trade across the country for hundreds of years.
For centuries, the four home nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have traded seamlessly with each other. People, products, ideas and investment have flowed between our islands unhindered.
It’s the reason that businesses on Oxford Road can easily stock Scottish salmon, Welsh lamb and whiskey from Northern Ireland. It allows plumbers and electricians, who gain their qualifications in Reading, to offer their services in Glasgow, Swansea and Belfast if they so wish.
To guarantee our shared prosperity and drive our recovery from the impact of Coronavirus, protecting the Internal Market and continuing to work together as one United Kingdom is vital.
This is increasingly important as we leave the Transition Period at the end of this year. Powers in over 70 areas that are currently exercised in Brussels will be transferred to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and for the very first time each devolved administration will have more control over policy areas such as air quality, food labelling, building energy efficiency, public procurement and animal welfare.
To allow each home nation to take full advantage of these new opportunities, whilst ensuring businesses can continue to trade freely across the UK as they do now, in July the Government published the UK Internal Market White Paper – the Government’s proposals to safeguard the flow of goods and services between all four UK nations.
Our proposals will give business the certainty it needs at this crucial juncture. If a baker sells bread in both Reading and Swansea, they will not need to create different packaging because they are selling between Wales and England. Likewise, engineering firms in Scotland can continue to purchase parts made in Berkshire, safe in the knowledge that the parts are compliant with regulations across other home nations.
Alongside the public consultation on our proposals, I have visited Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to speak to businesses directly about what the UK Internal Market means to them. Northern Ireland sells more to the rest of the UK than to all EU member states combined. Scotland sells more to the rest of the UK than to the rest of the world put together. And in some parts of Wales, a quarter of workers commute in from England on a daily basis.
In every nation, the message from business was clear: having different regulations within the UK would be a significant burden on them, particularly at a time when they are facing unprecedented challenges from the impact of coronavirus.
As we fire up our economic engines to recover from the pandemic, business needs stability. By protecting the integrity of the UK’s Internal Market, we will allow firms to focus on what they do best: creating jobs and opportunities for people here in Reading and right across our United Kingdom.
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