Five Archbishops bash UK Government over devolution ‘power grab’ bill

The Archbishop of Wales, John Davies. Picture by Christian Aid

Five Anglican primates have criticised the UK Government over a bill set to weaken the autonomy of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Ahead of peers in the House of Lords debating the Internal Market Bill on Monday, the archbishops of Armagh, Canterbury, York, Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church said that in its current form it could pose “enormous moral, as well as political and legal, consequences”.

“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,” the letter says.

“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 signatories include The Most Reverend John Davies, the Archbishop of Wales.

The Internal Market Bill has already been condemned as a “power grab” by the Welsh Government.

 

‘Break-up’

The letter, published in the Financial Times, describes the suggestions on how the four home nations will trade with each other after Brexit as an “entirely novel system, replacing one that evolved slowly and by careful negotiation over decades”.

It raises concerns about the bill’s ability to “equip a government minister to break international law”, adding it would “create a disastrous precedent” in the future.

The bill, which is due to be read for a second time in the House of Lords on Monday, is currently going through the process to be turned into legislation.

After it was published on 9 September, it became a contentious topic as it overrides parts of Britain’s legal divorce deal with the EU, known as the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Bill would see Westminster take control of a number of policy areas where changes could come into place as a result of Brexit.

Under current legislation areas such as state aid are devolved to Wales, but following the Brexit transition period the Westminster Government has indicated that they would want to take control of this policy area, among others.

Last month First Minister Mark Drakeford slammed the Bill as an “enormous power grab” which the Welsh Government will oppose “every step of the way”.

“This Bill will do more to hasten the break-up of the Union than anything else since devolution began. We’ll oppose it every step of the way,” he added.

The Bill has also sparked controversy because one of its main aims is to empower ministers to pass regulations even if they are contrary to the withdrawal agreement reached with the EU under the Northern Ireland protocol, breaking international law.

 

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