HOW the Withdrawal Agreement Bill travels through Parliament “will say something powerful about who we think we are”, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, has said.
Speaking in a debate on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Lords on Monday, Bishop Baines said: “Our integrity and honour will not be judged by whether we rule the world as global Britain, but, rather, by how we order our society to ensure justice and the dignity of the most vulnerable.”
The Withdrawal Agreement, the key piece of legislation in the Brexit process, which will mean that the UK leaves the EU on 31 January, passed its third reading in the House of Commons last week.
MPs voted to reject proposals — the Dubs amendment (News, 5 May 2017) — to keep protections for child refugees in the redrafted EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill. Bishop Baines argued: “Restoring the Dubs provisions would go a long way to restoring that honour.”
The amendment will be presented again in the House of Lords next week. Lord Dubs, who created the proposals, believes that there is a chance that the Government could be defeated.
He argued that taking away the right to family reunification for refugee children would expose them to more dangers, as they attempted to enter the UK illegally.
Bishop Baines said in the Lords: “How many exposed refugee children are now to be kept isolated from familial care and protection because this Parliament appears to deem them incidental to how we do our politics? Their alienation will come at a price later.
“I guess noble Lords will hear their own maxims resonating in their consciences. Mine echoes to the sounds of the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, such as Amos, who, despite economic flourishing, religious revival, and military security, warned those who ‘trample on the heads of the poor’ that this would not be the end of the story.”
He also argued that the Government must continue to listen to Parliament’s scrutiny of its Brexit policy: “The Government must assume the best of those who question, and not simply write them off as saboteurs . . .
“Making Brexit work best for everyone, and mitigating its negative impacts, will require the Government to see questioning and debate as constructive: a means to strengthen parliamentary support. Brexit will not be done by 31 January 2020, and the process beyond then will demand more than just compliance or acquiescence.”