Thinking Anglicans

Primates unite to sign letter opposing UK internal market bill

This letter to the editor of the Financial Times has been signed by:

The Archbishop of Armagh
The Archbishop of Canterbury
The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
The Archbishop of Wales
The Archbishop of York

As the Anglican primates of the four nations of the United Kingdom and Ireland, we wish to highlight the grave responsibility of peers in the House of Lords today as they debate the UK internal market bill (Report, October 15).

We are taking the rare step of writing together because the decisions implemented in this bill will profoundly affect the future of our countries and the relationships between them.

The bill represents a profound shift in how trading relationships within the UK will be regulated and governed. This will not be a return to a trade regime that existed before UK joined the EU; it will be an entirely novel system, replacing one that evolved slowly and by careful negotiation over decades.

The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd have made clear that the bill’s weakening of both the principles and the effect of devolved policymaking is of constitutional significance. Moreover, if the bill is made law without consent from devolved legislatures (as will happen if it is not amended to address their concerns), this will further undermine trust and goodwill among those who govern the different parts of the UK.

The bill is, of course, not just concerned with domestic law. It currently asks the country’s highest lawmaking body to equip a government minister to break international law. This has enormous moral, as well as political and legal, consequences.

We believe this would create a disastrous precedent. It is particularly disturbing for all of us who feel a sense of duty and responsibility to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement — that international treaty on which peace and stability within and between the UK and Ireland depends.

The UK negotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU to “protect the 1998 Agreement in all its dimensions”.

One year on, in this bill, the UK government is not only preparing to break the protocol, but also to breach a fundamental tenet of the agreement: namely by limiting the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights in Northern Ireland law.

If carefully negotiated terms are not honoured and laws can be “legally” broken, on what foundations does our democracy stand?

We urge lawmakers to consider this bill in the light of values and principles we would wish to characterise relationships across these islands long after the transition period.

The Most Reverend John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh
The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
The Most Reverend Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
The Most Reverend John Davies, Archbishop of Wales
The Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York

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David Lamming
David Lamming
5 months ago

Will Archbishops Justin and Stephen be in the House of Lords this afternoon to speak and vote against the second reading of a disgraceful bill that they rightly condemn? And how many of the other 24 ‘Lords Spiritual’ will be in the chamber to join them in the ‘Noes’ voting lobby?

RPNewark
RPNewark
5 months ago
Reply to  David Lamming

Pedantic, I know but none of them will be in the ‘Noes’ lobby. That is in the House of Comics – oops Commons.

I hope that they will all be in the ‘Not Contents’ lobby of the House of Peers.

Fr John Harris-White
Fr John Harris-White
5 months ago

Silent Primates now speak. Strange they want to dabble in politics, but have all remained silent on spiritual support for the people of the United Kingdom on the pandemic folk are suffering daily from.

Fr John Emlyn

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead
5 months ago

I couldn’t agree more.

Clare Amos
5 months ago

I was struck by the ‘unecumenicalness’ of this initiative. Somehow I feel it is an issue that the leadership of all the churches (at least of those churches which are members of CTBI) should be speaking about together. It feels particularly discourteous to the Church of Scotland – as another ‘established church’ in these islands. I don’t think that Archbishop Justin ‘bothers’ that much though about ecumenism.

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Amos

I don’t think the Church of Scotland likes being described as “ established” with or without inverted commas. Its historic formularies state at great length that in spiritual matters it is not subject to any earthly prince. I do agree that the letter would have carried more weight if the Moderator of the General Assembly had signed as well.

Froghole
Froghole
5 months ago
Reply to  Simon Bravery

Indeed. Article III of the Declaratory Articles, appended to the Church of Scotland Act 1921 (which attempted, with some success, to terminate the schism between the Free Church and the Church) is at pains to describe the Kirk as a ‘national church’: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/11-12/29.

Stanley Monkhouse
5 months ago

Armagh is most to be pitied. The effect of brexit on the Irish border was the first thing that occurred to me after the vote (19 yrs working in ROI and 2 offspring in Dublin). Both the province and diocese of Armagh straddle the border, and the diocese includes what many regard as the hotbed of Orangeism around Portadown, and the northern half of the Battle of the Boyne site which though only 35 miles from Dublin is in Armagh diocese. It may come as a surprise to some that the Orange Order, despite the noise of the DUP and… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
5 months ago

“As the Anglican primates of the four nations of the United Kingdom and Ireland …” There are six such primates, not five. The province of Dublin is entirely within the Republic, but its Archbishop is one of the “Anglican primates of the four nations”. Clare Amos has pointed to a seeming disinterest in ecumenism, and I recall the ABC consulting the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland about something or other, giving the impression that he knew nothing of the (Anglican) SEC. A lack of attention to detail in official pronouncements is regrettable. This solecism could easily have been prevented either by… Read more »

Clare Amos
5 months ago

You are quite right Stanley. It was a sloppy and discourteous mistake to exclude or forget the Archbishop of Dublin. If York is a Primate – so also is Dublin. But one has the feeling that getting things correct and precise is not a priority for the current Primate of All England. (I can’t think of any reason why Archbishop Michael Jackson might have wanted to stay out of the signatories).

John Scrivener
John Scrivener
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Amos

But the (five) Primates were addressing the UK legislature as UK primates concerning a UK parliamentary bill – Dublin’s participation would have been politically delicate in these circumstances, would it not?

Nicholas Henderson
5 months ago

At last the voice of the Established and disestablished Anglicans of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland … and saying something sensible.
Whenever the government of the day strays away from consensus or as in this case moral and legal obligation the Church should speak out.

Froghole
Froghole
5 months ago

Of course, the primates are correct. It is entirely wrong, in this instance, that parliament might determine that a British statute – which is customarily supreme within the UK system – should prevail over a treaty obligation relating to the exercise of ministerial discretion respecting the application of state aid in Northern Ireland. However, I am sure many of us will recall the various instances when Anglican leaders have not spoken out when the EU has decided to abrogate international law where it conflicts with the acquis communautaire and/or the sensibilities of EU officials and judges. For example, in 2008,… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
5 months ago
Reply to  Froghole

‘Froghole’: “Essentially, the EU – like any polity – obeys international law most scrupulously when it elides with its interests, and not when it does not do so. The ‘law of the jungle’ has always prevailed, and always will”

“Like any polity” – such as the U.S. and UK. Or, as many would say, ‘U.S.K’.

David Lamming
David Lamming
5 months ago

Further to my earlier comment, Archbishop Justin was in the House of Lords yesterday afternoon (19 October) and spoke in the two-debate, as did the Bishop of Leeds, Nicholas Baines. After the opening speech by a junior minister, Lord Callanan, the following amendment was proposed by Lord Judge, a former Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales and a cross bench peer: “As an amendment to the motion that the bill be now read a second time, at end to insert “but that this House regrets that Part 5 of the bill contains provisions which, if enacted, would undermine the… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
5 months ago
Reply to  David Lamming

‘Lord Alderdice (at 8.15 pm) summed the issue up thus:

“When one manifestly does the wrong thing—not making a mistake, but doing what is morally wrong and unjustifiable—history will find you out”’

Archbishop Justin Welby please note – especially regarding the Bishop Bell issue.

Last edited 5 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
David Lamming
David Lamming
5 months ago
Reply to  David Lamming

An update. The House of Lords concluded their debate between 1.15pm and 2.08pm today, 20 October. Lord Judge’s amendment was passed by 395 votes to 169: a majority of 226 against the Government. The Government motion, as amended, was agreed without a division and the Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the whole House. The expectation must be that amendments will be moved and passed during the committee stage to remove the objectionable clauses 44, 45 and 47. In his speech Lord Fox summed the debate up thus: “The conclusions that I draw from yesterday’s… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
5 months ago
Reply to  David Lamming

Further Update: Seven bishops voted in favour of the Judge amendment: Canterbury, Coventry, Leeds, London, Manchester, Salisbury and Worcester. Of the other 388 peers voting ‘Content’, the figures were: Conservative 39: including lawyers, Lords Clarke of Nottingham, Garnier, Hailsham (Viscount), Howard of Lympne, and Keen of Elie (who was leading counsel for the Advocate-General for Scotland, i.e. the Government, in the 2019 prorogation case.) Crossbench 103: including Lord Harries and three former Lord Chief Justices, viz Lords Judge, Thomas of Cymgiedd and Woolf. Also former President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury; former Law Lords/Supreme Court Justices, Lords… Read more »

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead
5 months ago
Reply to  David Lamming

Fortunately, the government has an 80 seat majority. And few citizens take notice of our shameless bishops who wear their left wing/remain politics on their sleeves and seem to find politicking more satisfying than supporting the struggling parishes and saving the Church from irreversible decline.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
5 months ago
Reply to  Jill Armstead

Bishops are an easy target, and it would appear to be open season on them in TA. But we will have strayed a long way from the Bible when affairs of state no longer feature at pulpit and altar.

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