A Eurosceptic MP has said Boris Johnson should consider cutting ties with the Church of England after his Brexit bill was heavily criticised by senior figures of the church.
Former European Research Group chair Steve Baker said the prime minister should think about “paving a motion on the disestablishment of the Church of England” following opposition to his internal market bill in the House of Lords, the Times has reported.
The threat came as the UK’s five Anglican archbishops warned the legislation would set a “dangerous precedent” that would undermine Britain’s standing in the world.
The group, led by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said the bill would not only override key sections of Britain’s divorce deal with the EU, it also potentially put peace in Northern Ireland at risk.
They said: “If carefully negotiated terms are not honoured and laws can be ‘legally’ broken, on what foundations does our democracy stand?”
Reacting to the news, Baker suggested a parliamentary motion might be needed to sever ties between the Church and state if rows on political issues by its leaders persist.
He said: “Of course they’re entitled to their political views while they sit in the House of Lords.
“If people don’t want them to have these views, perhaps the prime minister ought to move to a paving motion on the disestablishment of the Church of England.”
Welby attacked the internal market bill in the House of Lords on Monday and accused ministers of failing to act “justly and honestly”.
“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,” he told peers.
Welby, along with the Archbishop of Armagh, John McDowell; the Archbishop of Wales, John Davies; the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Mark Strange; and the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, sent a letter to the FT expressing their dismay at the legislation.
They said the bill “asks the country’s highest law-making body to equip a government minister to break international law”.
They added: “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 Agreement.”
As a senior member of the Church of England, Welby is one of 25 other religious figures who sit in the House of Lords as Lords Spirituals.