LEIGH MP James Grundy said he voted in favour of the government's Internal Markets Bill insisting it does not prevent the UK from complying with measures in the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The Bill passed its first hurdle in the House of Commons as MPs backed the Internal Market Bill by 340 votes to 263.

Government ministers say it contains vital safeguards to protect Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, if negotiations on a future trade deal break down.

However some critics warned it risks damaging the UK by breaching international law.

Two Tory MPs voted against the bill on Monday night while a further 30 abstained, although some of those may not have been for political reasons.

The Leigh Conservative MP said the bill creates "a fall-back option if no agreement is reached with the EU" over the matters.

He also hit out at the EU for interpreting this section of the Withdrawal Agreement in such a "perverse way" and "suggesting they could ban such things as food imports" between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.

While self isolating due to developing coronavirus symptoms over the weekend, a colleague voted in favour by proxy of the bill on the MP's behalf.

Leigh Journal:

Mr Grundy set out his reasons for voting in favour in a statement on Tuesday.

He said: "Last night, the colleague exercising my proxy voted in favour of the Internal Markets Bill at my request, in order to continue to respect the Leave vote of my constituents, and to protect our United Kingdom.

"There have been a number of reports about the alleged changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, and I wanted to take the time to update you on the importance of last night’s vote.

"The Northern Ireland protocol as set out in the Withdrawal Agreement was designed to ensure that the UK’s exit from the EU was consistent with the Good Friday Agreement, but left certain elements to be resolved in 2020. Contrary to some of the stories being circulated on social media, the Internal Markets Bill has been introduced to ensure that should no agreement be reached on these specific elements, the communities within Northern Ireland would not be disadvantaged.

"The UK Internal Market Bill ensures that Northern Ireland remains fully part of the UK customs territory by guaranteeing that goods moving within the UK will never pay EU tariffs. The Bill also ensures that Northern Ireland’s businesses will have unfettered access to the rest of the UK without any paperwork, as per the Northern Ireland Protocol.

"Let me be clear. These measures do not prevent the UK from complying with requirements in the protocol, as per the Withdrawal Agreement. They instead exist as a fall-back option if no agreement is reached with the EU on the issues that were left to be resolved this year."

Leigh Journal:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Pic: PA

Mr Grundy added: "I am disappointed that the EU has sought to interpret this section of the Withdrawal Agreement in such a perverse way, suggesting they could ban such things as food imports between the UK and NI in the event of 'No Deal'.

"Equally, the EU's insistence that, in order to do a deal, we must accept that our fishing waters may again be British, but the fish in them are not, is preposterous, as is the insistence on strict rules regarding 'state aid' to private companies, as though no French or Italian company was ever subsidised.

"No reasonable person could interpret the rules this way, and I believe that by acting in such a manner, the EU have breached the provision that encourage both sides to negotiate in good faith. The EU should return the the negotiating table at once, and stop playing at games of brinkmanship, and the Labour Party should stop encouraging them."