All 2 Lord Archbishop of Canterbury contributions to the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Mon 19th Oct 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 9th Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 19th October 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 29 September 2020 - (29 Sep 2020)
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I look forward to hearing, here and online, the contributions to come, especially the maiden speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and the noble Lord, Lord Sarfraz.

I also concur totally with the powerful and remarkable speech by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. What we are called to do above all in this country, deeply embedded in our Christian culture and history, is to act justly and honestly. We cannot do so if we openly speak of breaking a treaty under international law, reached properly, on which peace in part of the UK relies. My distinguished former colleague Sentamu, who paid with beatings for his defence of law and justice in Uganda would have spoken trenchantly. I regret his absence.

There are some who claim that I and my colleagues who wrote in the FT this morning are misinformed. But the letter—and this intervention—followed the lead of those who have spent their lives seeking peace in Ireland. Peace is surely something of which religious leaders should speak. We also listened to the Select Committee on the Constitution, to all five living former Prime Ministers, two former Conservative leaders, and distinguished judges, including former Presidents of the Supreme Court and the former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, to name but a few.

This country has different characteristics and needs in its regions and nations. They must be reflected in all our relationships if the union is to survive. There is no watertight door in relationships between economics and constitutional issues. They overflow from one into the other. The timing of anything that the UK Parliament or Government do in Northern Ireland is always especially significant to relationships. It is particularly so at present. The revived Assembly is scarcely a year old; 2021 is the centenary of the establishment of Stormont and the creation of the border. Much progress has been made since the 1990s in building confidence and peace, yet it is clear from many visits in the last few years, and clear to anyone who listens, that the tensions continue. Peace and reconciliation need continual reinforcement and continual progress. I will therefore be seeking to work with others for amendments which ensure that the process of peace and reconciliation is pursued and that powers exercised under this Bill, when it becomes law, involve consultation amidst the immense complexities of Northern Ireland. I hope we may act on a cross-party basis.

Politics, if it is to draw out the best of us, must be more than just the exercise of binaries, of raw majority power unleashed; it exists to seek truth, to bring diverse peoples together in healthy relationships. Our reputation as a nation, our profoundly good and powerful influence and example, which I know from experience around the world, will suffer great harm if law-breaking is pursued—greater harm than this Bill seeks to prevent. In the Church of England, we are all too clearly aware of the shame that comes with failing morally. Let us not make the same mistake at national level. This House exists to amend and improve legislation, not to derail it, and that must be our urgent aim now.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 9th November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 135-V Fifth Marshalled list for Committee - (4 Nov 2020)
Lord Newby Portrait Lord Newby (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Howard, and to agree with him—not inevitable, in my case. As he said, this has absolutely nothing to do with whether you think being a member of the European Union, or not, is a good or bad thing.

This afternoon, your Lordships are being invited by the signatories of the clause stand part Motion, including myself, to strike down the whole of Part 5 of the Bill. Although this is inevitably a contentious matter, there are a number of points on which I think there is no serious disagreement. First, there is no serious disagreement that the Bill as drafted provides for the UK to break international law. Ministers have admitted it, and legal opinion—as voiced so eloquently by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, a moment ago—is firmly of that view. Secondly, there is no question but that your Lordships’ House is completely within its constitutional right to delete Part 5 if it thinks fit. If we cannot take a view on a matter of deliberate law-breaking by the Government, we may as well pack up our bags now.

The key remaining question, which we have to decide today before deciding how to vote, is this: is the breach of the law contained in the Bill justified by the circumstances? It is not impossible to think of theoretical scenarios in which, as a country, we might decide to repudiate an international treaty. But is that the case here? In making the case for the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord True, at Second Reading and the Environment Secretary this morning in the media, made two linked, but central, arguments: first, that the clauses are necessary because Northern Ireland must retain unfettered access to the rest of the UK internal market; and secondly, that there was, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord True,

“a balance to be struck”

between maintaining the

“rule of law … and the integrity of this union”.—[Official Report, 20/10/20; col. 1430.]

To this George Eustice added this morning that Part 5 was necessary for “protecting peace and stability” in Northern Ireland. Both arguments are fatally flawed.

First, the concept of unfettered access under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, whether or not there is a deal with the EU, is a complete mirage. Once the Government accepted that there could be no customs border on the island of Ireland, there had to be one down the Irish Sea. Such a border fetters access, even if there is free trade across it, because there have to be checks, in respect of VAT and excise duty, to prevent smuggling and fraud, and there have to be sanitary and phytosanitary checks as well. These checks cost traders time and money, and for many they can make the difference between trading at a profit and trading at a loss, and therefore whether they trade with Great Britain at all.

The Government accept the need for these checks—these fetters. Clause 43(2) of this Bill provides for them, even if it invokes the other illegal provisions of the Bill for VAT, customs, and reasons of biosecurity. The National Audit Office spelled out the problem last week in its report The UK Border: Preparedness for the End of the Transition Period, where it stated that implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol was a “very high risk” because of, among other things,

“the scale of the changes required … and the complexity of the arrangements.”

In other words, the problem of the fetters.

Earlier in the year, the Government made £355 million available to traders in Northern Ireland to mitigate their costs in continuing to trade with Great Britain. Now £355 million is a tidy sum—not to eliminate the fetters but to try to ensure that they chafe less keenly. So let us not hear any more talk of unfettered trade—there will be none.

The Government’s other justification for Part 5 is that if it were not in the Bill, the integrity of the union would be threatened, and peace and security in Northern Ireland would be put at risk. If this were the case, the Government might have a respectable argument. But, as we have heard in many speeches at Second Reading and in Committee, and in the very eloquent comments of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, it is the Bill that threatens peace, prosperity, security and stability, not the other way around.

We have heard from many speakers how Part 5, by breaching the Northern Ireland protocol and reimposing elements of a hard border in Northern Ireland, almost inevitably puts some of the key principles of the Northern Ireland agreement under threat—a view, incidentally, that appears to be shared by President-elect Biden. If these fears were realised, does anybody seriously believe that they would not strengthen demands for a border poll in Ireland? And does anybody seriously argue that Part 5 could in any circumstances strengthen the union with Scotland, where the Government and public opinion are as appalled as most Members of your Lordships’ House at the prospect of being part of a country that is willing to flout international law?

So, far from supporting the integrity of the union, Part 5 weakens it, and in doing so fatally undermines the Government’s argument in favour of these illegal clauses. They do not provide unfettered trade; they do not strengthen the union. They were a political manoeuvre by the UK Government to try to put pressure on the EU. They failed to do this, they reduced the UK’s standing as an upholder of international law for no substantive reason whatever, and they simply must be removed.

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 161, to which I have added my name, alongside the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. The previous speeches have all been both moving and deeply eloquent, and I shall therefore be very brief.

As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, so powerfully explained, the purpose of our amendment is simply to put on the record a concern that this Bill in its current form fails to take into account the sensitivities and complexities of Northern Ireland, and could have unintended and serious consequences for peace and reconciliation. The noble and right reverend Lord spent 20 years as Archbishop of Armagh, between 1986 and 2006, and the force of his words was most remarkable. He has experience of everything from the funerals in small churchyards of those caught up in the Troubles through to negotiations behind the scenes for the Belfast agreement. He speaks with the integrity and authority that those 20 years have earned him, and I trust that the House will listen carefully.

One thing must remain certain in a time of turmoil and uncertainty, and it is the inestimable value of peace. The process of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland did not end with the Belfast agreement, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, said. It remains an ongoing process that requires work, and awareness from leaders that almost every decision taken and word spoken in relation to Northern Ireland will have an impact. This Bill must show that it is sensitive to these circumstances.

I will conclude by saying something about the amendments in the names of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and others, including my right reverend friend the Bishop of Leeds. I will not add much, as the words of the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, were absolutely convincing and extremely clear. I also associate myself with his important tribute to Lord Sacks, whom we will miss terribly in this House.