Carmichael speech: Internal Market Bill puts lawbreaking over UK integrity

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, spoke out last night on the impact of the lawbreaking included in the government’s Internal Market Bill. Mr Carmichael noted the harm the Bill risked to Northern Ireland and drew comparisons to the unlawful invasion of Iraq, passed by Parliament in 2003.


Speaking last night in the House, Mr Carmichael said:

“What we have seen tonight is chickens coming home to roost. Goodness only knows they were warned often enough. The Withdrawal Agreement was a political choice made by the Prime Minister to give Brexit precedence over the Northern Ireland peace agreement. This is a question that goes right to the very heart of the deal that was negotiated by the Prime Minister himself. We cannot enter into an agreement and then seek to repudiate it because the other party is doing what we have just agreed they are allowed to do.


“Whether it is Ministers in Downing Street or Members in this House who break the law, at the end of the day the United Kingdom will be judged and nobody will care who was ultimately responsible.


“In 2003 this House voted to go to war in Iraq, an action which again had little or no foundation in ​international law, and which was ultimately shown to be an unlawful act. Nobody cared that it was an act that had been authorised by this House and not just by Ministers in Downing Street.


“This is not, however, an isolated action from this Government. For a Government to act unlawfully once might be regarded as misfortune; to act unlawfully twice looks like carelessness.


“It is bad not just for our reputation as a player on the world stage, but it threatens the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom. The Conservatives and Unionists in government should understand that.”

Internal Market Bill undermines future of UK – Carmichael speaks ahead of crucial debate

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Northern Ireland, Alistair Carmichael, has spoken out today ahead of a crucial debate on the government’s Internal Market Bill, warning that the plans put the UK’s future at risk. The Bill will break international law by reneging on the government’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, signed earlier this year, and key figures in the United States have already said that a vital trade deal will not be possible if the government moves ahead with the Bill.


Speaking before the debate, Mr Carmichael said:

“This Bill puts our country’s future at risk. Aside from ignoring the devolution settlement for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Boris Johnson is treating peace in Northern Ireland and the delicate settlement there as though it is a pinata. The government is taking whacks at the constitutional fabric of our country in the pursuit of a few extra bargaining chips.”


He continued:

“Even so, the government has created a bill that manages to alienate not just our partners in the EU but also in the US. Political leaders in the United States – including presidential frontrunner Joe Biden – are already saying that they will not sign a trade deal with the UK if this bill goes ahead. It is hard to see who benefits from this mess but it is certainly not the people of Great Britain or Northern Ireland.”


“There are more important issues that we could be dealing with. With a second wave of coronavirus already in progress, however, the Tories are spending more time arguing amongst themselves than focusing on what matters.”

Isles representatives hold first in-person surgery since start of pandemic

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, and Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart, will hold a joint constituency advice surgery on Friday 18 September in Islesburgh Community Centre in Lerwick. To ensure public safety and in compliance with government COVID-19 rules, the surgery will practise necessary social distancing with regular hand hygiene, face masks and use of plastic screens. Demand for slots at the surgery has been high and constituents are advised that appointments are required to ensure social distancing. Appointments are available with either Mr Carmichael or Ms Wishart.


Commenting, Alistair Carmichael said:

“I am glad that we are able to begin the return to in-person constituency advice surgeries this week, while taking all precautions to ensure it is done safely. Whatever the matter, I would encourage all constituents to arrange an appointment if they require support. The past months have been exceptionally busy for us in correspondence and we want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to discuss issues they are facing.


“Necessary precautions will be exercised to the highest standard to ensure this is a safe space for all involved. As always, constituents can also contact us anytime by email or by phoning the parliamentary offices.”


Ms Wishart said:

“We know that some people feel issues are best discussed face to face so I’m pleased we are able to hold an in-person surgery. Hygiene and distancing measures will be in place to help keep constituents safe.


“Do please get in touch if there’s anything you feel we can help you with as your parliamentary representatives.”

“Monty Python” government must stop contradicting itself and publish legal advice

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today called on the Prime Minister to publish legal advice taken by the government on the legality of its Internal Market Bill, making light of a series of contradictory remarks by government officials in recent days. Multiple officials have claimed that the Bill breaks or does not break international law in recent days, with a range of justifications and competing narratives offered.


Today the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland suggested that the EU was negotiating with the UK in good faith, while the Prime Minister has suggested yesterday that the EU is instead making “offensive threats”.


Speaking in the House during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Carmichael said:

“Last week the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said that the UK Internal Market Bill would breach our obligations under international law. Yesterday the Advocate General for Scotland said that the Secretary of State was wrong to say that. Today the Secretary of State says that the Advocate General was wrong to say that he was wrong.


“It’s of course possible that they are both right in saying that the other is wrong, but surely an important matter such as this deserves clarity, so will the Prime Minister undertake to publish legal advice from all his law officers so the House can make an informed decision on the question of legality?”


Responding, the Prime Minister said:

“As he knows we don’t publish Attorney General advice. Of course this Bill is intended to uphold the economic, political and territorial integrity of the United Kingdom and I believe it should be supported by all Members of this House.”


Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“This is government by Monty Python sketch, just without the talented scriptwriters. In fact it looks like they are making it up as they go along. The problem is that these jokers are not funny and risk doing serious damage to Britain’s reputation on the world stage.


“The only way to end this farce is for the government to publish its legal advice on its planned breach of international law. Their continued refusal to do so speaks volumes for their bad faith.”

Carmichael welcomes court ruling on lockdown insurance payout

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has welcomed a ruling by the High Court that some insurers should pay out on disease clauses in some business interruption policies. The test case was brought by the Financial Conduct Authority and had the potential to affect 370,000 mostly small businesses. The ruling may be appealed but will allow some businesses to recoup costs incurred by the lockdown, and insurers should contact those affected within the next seven days.


Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

“This ruling is welcome news for small businesses who have been trying to get support from their insurers in these unprecedented circumstances. Hospitality and tourism businesses in the isles in particular have suffered severely from lockdown closures. Even if only a limited number are able to benefit from this then it will still represent progress and help us to survive the low season for business.


“Insurers should be contacting policyholders in the coming days. If any businesses believe that they are covered by disease clauses of these kinds and do not hear from their insurers then I invite them to get in touch with my office.”

Any changes to online retail tax must benefit islanders

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today raised concerns about the government’s plans for an online sales tax, saying that any changes to taxation must address unfair delivery charges to the isles. Highlighting the benefits to people in rural and island from online shopping, Mr Carmichael said that if such a tax was introduced, it should include reductions for retailers that offer the same delivery charges for the isles as the rest of the UK, in order to support island needs rather than penalising them.


Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:

“Online shopping offers a range of choice and opportunities for many of my constituents and others throughout the Highlands and Islands that they just can’t get from local shops. It often comes with the whammy of delivery charges that often make the actual purchase itself look small, or else a refusal to deliver completely. An online sales tax could be an opportunity to give a small tax break to those making online sales who deliver who deliver up a universal service, a single price across the whole country. Would the minister consider that along with his other considerations?”


Responding for the government, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman MP, said:

“I’ll ask my officials to look more closely and to engage with him on the question. He will know that we have already introduced a digital services tax. We are open to these potential ideas, we will be looking very carefully at this area and intelligent and well-thought-out feedback is always welcome.”


Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“I am glad that the minister gave a positive response on my point about fair delivery charges and shall be following up in writing. Whatever the government’s final decision on an online sales tax, we have been waiting far too long for a resolution to unfair charges for delivery to the isles. If there is to be a change in the tax regime then it should benefit islanders, not penalise us further.”

Japan agreement on Northern Isles produce welcome but raises questions about EU deal

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has welcomed news that the UK’s trade deal with Japan is to include geographical protections for Northern Isles produce, but noted that the agreement raises questions about the government’s negotiations on the much larger EU trade agreement. Responding to a statement in Parliament by the International Trade Secretary, Mr Carmichael noted that the UK appeared to be giving guarantees on state aid rules to Japan that were stronger than those it was willing to make with the EU, imperilling a deal with the UK’s largest trade partner.


Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:

“May I welcome the progress that was made in relation to geographically protected indicators, a number of which come from the northern isles in relation to this deal? The Financial Times article does say that David Frost is concerned that the Secretary of State has given away more in relation to level-playing field issues than he is offering to the EU. If that is correct, then that is very serious indeed. Will she commit to publishing the state aid clauses now?”


Responding for the government, International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss MP said:

“I am pleased that the right hon. Gentleman appreciates the new listing of Orkney beef, Orkney lamb and Orkney Scottish Islands cheddar, and I think we also have a Shetland geographical indicator…


“[On state aid provisions] We are still in the legal scrubbing process with Japan. Once that process is finished, we will be sharing our text with the International Trade Committee, which will then fully analyse it.”


Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“It is good to see expanded recognition for distinctive Northern Isles products in the Japan trade deal. We have to look at the wider context, however, and that includes the very real threat to our exports of these products to our primary markets in the EU.


“Given that the government was willing to make promises to Japan about state aid it seems bizarre that they cannot make the same guarantees as part of an EU trade deal. Perhaps it is because they are again playing politics with Brexit rather than prioritising secure trade for our exporters – or perhaps they simply intend to break this deal with Japan as well as soon as it proves inconvenient. Either way, they need set aside the politics and put livelihoods first.”

Great British Beach Clean 2020 welcomed by Carmichael

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has welcomed a call for volunteers by the Marine Conservation Society for its annual Great British Beach Clean. The event runs from 18-25 September, encouraging people across the United Kingdom to clean up beaches in their local area.


Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

"Combatting pollution on our beaches is a task that we are very familiar with in the Northern Isles. I'm proud of the impressive litter-picking operations we have here each spring. The “Bag the Bruck” campaign and Da Voar Redd Up are both great examples of our communities coming together to clean up the shoreline. The Great British Beach Clean is another chance for us to make a difference.”


He added:

"I have been campaigning in past years to bring a bill to the House of Commons to reduce plastic pollution. Tackling the problem at its source is an important step to reduce the litter we find on our beaches, but there will always be a need to get stuck in at a local level.


"The Northern Isles have spectacular beaches - some of the last genuinely wild shorelines in Europe. It's up to us to keep them that way. I look forward to taking part this weekend, and working with others to keep our beaches clean."

COVID-19 Update | 14 September 2020

COVID-19 Update – 14 September 2020


I hope you continue to find these updates useful and that they help with any questions you might have. I am ready to help you in whatever way we can particularly during these uncertain times. 


Please find following a summary of some of the latest advice and information in response to the coronavirus pandemic. I know that some of the government advice will need to be interpreted and adjusted to work in the isles so please get in touch if I can answer any questions you may have.


For the time being I will be sending out updates when there significant developments.  If you do not wish to continue receiving these updates please let me know. You can sign up for updates via my website homepage.


Alistair Carmichael MP


National Updates

On 10 September the Scottish Government formally reviewed coronavirus restrictions. Scotland is to remain in Phase 3 of the route map out of lockdown.


A recent rise in coronavirus cases means the following measures have been put in place:


  • Group gatherings will only be allowed to a maximum of six people from two households in both indoor and outdoor settings, with limited exemptions (becoming law from Monday 14 September).


  • Face coverings must be worn in hospitality settings, apart from during the service of food and drink, with hospitality staff following the similar rules as retail staff (from Monday 14 September).

  • Up to 20 people will still be able to attend funerals, weddings and civil partnerships ceremonies, with the limit permitted for wakes and receptions rising to 20 in line with this, as long as they take place in regulated venues like hotels with strict guidance in place (from Monday 14 September).

  • Route map moves expected from Monday (14 September) are given a new indicative date of Monday 5 October 2020.


The following activities have an indicative re-start date of 5 October:

  • Indoor sports courts for adults and young people (12+) for contact sports.


  • Indoor soft play can re-open - following guidance (e.g. no ball pools, enhanced hygiene).


  • Certain outdoor live events (e.g. those involving focussed standing) - with physical distancing, enhanced hygiene, and restricted numbers - following guidance.


  • Certain indoor live events (seated and ambulant) - with physical distancing, enhanced hygiene and restricted numbers – following guidance.


  • Other indoor entertainment venues - following guidance with physical distancing requirements (e.g. theatres, music venues). Not nightclubs.


  • Stadia - limited re-opening - following guidance (e.g. physical distancing, restricted numbers) - with option for testing on earlier dates.


You can find the updated route map here.


Local Lockdowns

Local measures remain in place in East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire.

People living in these areas should not visit other households.


You can read more here.


Protect Scotland App

The Protect Scotland app has been launched. The app is an extra tool to support contract tracing and the Test and Protect system. It is free to download from Apple and Google stores and we would encourage you to do so.


Individuals' privacy will be protected as the app uses Bluetooth technology to anonymously alert users if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and advises them to self-isolate. Users of the app who test positive will still get a call from a contact tracer to confirm their details and who they have been in close contact with.


The app does not store details on an individual or their location but uses encrypted, anonymised codes exchanged between smartphones to determine all close contacts. Close contacts are defined as people who have been within two metres of someone who has tested positive for 15  minutes.


You can find out more here.


You can find the up to date list of countries and territories that are exempt from quarantine following foreign travel here.


Recent changes mean people travelling from Hungary and La Reunion will have to quarantine if they arrive from 04.00 on 12 September.


Meanwhile Sweden will be removed from the quarantine list from 04.00 on 12 September.

Furlough Scheme

Despite cross-party efforts to support sector-specific extensions to the furlough scheme it is looking increasingly likely that the programme will be shut down entirely in October. I am monitoring the situation and will continue to make representations to the government on this issue. If you have any specific questions about how this may affect you, please get in touch.

Kickstart Scheme

The government has launched the new Kickstart scheme providing funding to employers to create new 6-month job placements for young people who are currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. The first placements are likely to be available from November.


Kickstart funding will cover:

  • 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week.


  • the associated employer National Insurance contributions.


  • employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions.


You can find further information about the scheme, including how to apply as an employer, here.

Eat Out to Help Out

The final day of Eat Out to Help Out was Monday 1st September – figures from the Treasury suggest that 26,000 meals were served under the scheme in Shetland alone, providing a significant boost to local restaurants and saving people £168,000 over the course of August. I have been glad to see the positive impact for local businesses despite the challenging environment.

What to do if you have symptoms?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • New and continuous cough.
  • Fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater).
  • Loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia).


If you’ve developed symptoms you need to self-isolate for 10 days from the start of your symptoms and arrange to be tested even if you think your symptoms are mildResidents of non-doctor islands should contact their local clinician.


If you live with other people they'll need to stay at home for 14 days from the start of your symptoms even if they don’t have symptoms themselves.


If you have symptoms that are causing serious concern call NHS 24 on 111 or dial 999 in an emergency.


If you require more information visit or call the special helpline on 0800 028 2816. If you need a sick note due to coronavirus, you can get this from the NHS Inform website. 


Phone Surgeries


I will continue to run a phone surgery on Mondays and Thursdays between 13.00 and 14.00, for the next few weeks. Call the Orkney constituency office on 01856 876 541 and leave your name and number, and I will call you back as soon as I can.


You can email at:


Phone: 01595 690 044



Tory plans to scrap Electoral Commission suggest it is doing its job

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has raised concerns about the government’s plans for the future of the Electoral Commission in the House of Commons. Media reports have suggested that the Conservatives may seek to scrap the independent body, after a number of investigations and charges over the party’s election practices.


Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:

“Would the Committee Member agree with me that while we can probably all think of occasions where we disliked adjudications from the Electoral Commission, the fact that the governing party clearly want to be rid of it is an indication that probably it is doing rather a good job?”


Responding, the Committee member, Christian Matheson MP, said:

“The track record of the Electoral Commission is one in which over 500 adjudications have been made, five have been challenged in court and only one of those challenges has been upheld. So far as that works out, I think that record stands on its own two feet.”


Speaking after the exchange, Mr Carmichael added:

“Independent regulation can often be uncomfortable for those who are under its scrutiny. That is why it is so vital to defend. If those in power wish to dismantle the non-partisan Electoral Commission then that is all the more reason to defend it.

“In a time of social media misinformation and regulation struggling to keep up, we need to be enhancing and reinvigorating the remit of the Electoral Commission rather than seeking to undermine it. Free and fair elections are underpinned by independent scrutiny.”

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