Open Letter to Andrew Mitchell

Goldieslie Road,
Sutton Coldfield,
West Midlands,
B73 5PQ

13th September 2020

UK Internal Market Bill

Dear Mr Mitchell,

As you know, we have now left the European Union, following the Withdrawal Agreement that you and your party campaigned for and which was signed for by the Prime Minister. Thus, I read with dismay, that the Conservative government is planning to break international law. It is just not acceptable for a government minister to argue that the UK could break international law in a “very specific and limited way”. Nor is it acceptable for the Prime Minister to argue for the Withdrawal Agreement to be rewritten, when he fought for it, campaigned for it (with you) and signed it.

My concerns are also shared by many others, including former Conservative leaders, such as Sir John Major, William Hague, Theresa May and Michael Howard, all of whom have warned that the proposed Internal Market Bill, will threaten the UK’s reputation internationally, as well as risking the basis of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. This erosion of trust with our international partners will threaten the very trade deals that you and your government promised would be sorted by the end of this year. Indeed, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi has warned that Britain will be unable to secure a trade deal with the US if it does anything to undermine the treaty that brought peace to Northern Ireland after decades of violence.

You may be my political opponent, but all the voters of Sutton Coldfield are looking to you to respect your electoral promises and the basis of our international agreements, especially as this country faces the twin challenges of Brexit and COVID19. The rule of law is paramount, the voters of Sutton Coldfield should expect no less - supporting this legislation will seriously damage the UK’s reputation.  It will weaken the UK’s ability to hold other states to account for their flaunting of international law, such as China, Iran or Russia.

Britain has always had an enviable reputation for fairness, justice and good governance. This reputation has taken centuries to build and can be damaged in months. At a time when we are seeking new agreements with new countries, it is cavalier to be advertising such a dismissive relationship with international law: actions in direct contradiction to the British values that the Conservative Party purport to uphold.

I hope that you will agree with your former leader and Brexiteer, Lord Howard in opposing this legislation: “We have a reputation for probity, for upholding the rule of law” and I note your comments in the Guardian that “it will be extremely difficult to vote for provisions which quite specifically seek to breach international law.” I urge you to follow your conscience and reject the internal market bill unless appropriate amendments are made.

Yours sincerely,

Jenny Wilkinson

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Sutton Coldfield