Why we should all be deeply concerned about the Nationality and Borders Bill

In the eyes of the Nationality and Borders Bill, some citizens are less British than others.(Photo: Unsplash/HelloI'mNik)

With all the noise over Christmas parties that shouldn't have happened last year ... and that may or may not be happening this year ... most people will have missed the Nationality and Borders Bill which passed through the Commons last week.

Amongst the things that this bill would do is to give our government the power to remove British citizenship from nearly six million British dual nationals – and to do so without warning.

As of last week, the government may remove any dual nationals' UK citizenship for 'any reason', and it can do so without even contacting the person involved.

Of course, ministers will understandably say that they would only ever use this power in rare and extreme circumstances regarding people who had done something appalling. Yet the new powers mean that they pretty much exclude anyone.

And just think about this. If I did something utterly appalling, I might get sentenced to life in prison. But the government wouldn't take my citizenship off me. Why? Well because I've pretty much only got a British family heritage for as long back as I am aware. So what the government has done is to say that the citizenship of people whose British family history isn't as lengthy as mine, isn't as important as mine. It's basically saying that someone whose family migrated to the UK is less British than me.

When we look at our Bible we know that our God considers no one to be a non-person. Every hair of your head is numbered. You are of infinite value to the God who created you, he knows you inside and out, he died for you. No one has the right to tell you that you are no-one.

Christmas tells us that our God chose to be born on the outside. Literally born outside ... but to a marginalized young woman, unmarried at the time of conception who with her new husband was then forced to flee. A refugee family, running from the murderous attention of a king. Three decades later, this child would become the ultimate outsider – rejected by the people, betrayed or deserted by his friends, taken outside the city walls, subject to crucifixion – a form of execution meant not just to kill you but to expose and humiliate you as you suffer publicly without pity, a defeated man, a worthless man...

My point is that our God knows exactly what it is to be excluded. Next to him hung others who were excluded – those two thieves. Grievous, and utterly excessive though their punishment was, nevertheless they had committed crimes. Yet we know that Jesus extended a welcome to those excluded men – a welcome that one of them reached out for, and received.

Let's be blunt. Those who are on the sharp end of this new law are not society's most visible or popular people. That's a good reason for Christians to be mindful of them. Proverbs 31: 8 tells us: 'Open your mouth for the mute.' In Deuteronomy 10:19 God commands his people to 'Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.'

The Bible is full of commands to care for those whose voice isn't usually heard and whose home hasn't always been here. God usually accompanies that command with a reminder that they too once were outsiders and that God rescued them from that state. Christians are those who whilst once being enemies of God, have been rescued according to His grace. To my mind Christians have an explicit duty to care for those whom others may seek to exclude.

Probably most of you are not amongst the nearly six million people who are now eligible to lose their citizenship. But one of the things I want my Mucky Business podcast to achieve is to introduce Christians to issues that might otherwise fly under our radar. Maybe after exploring this issue you will decide that the government is right to give itself this power – and I wouldn't expect you to automatically agree with my opinion on this, you must ponder this for yourself.

But I am bound to say that even if we think that this government wouldn't abuse this power to strip people of their Britishness at the stroke of a pen, it seems naïve to me to think these powers will always be used correctly. What about some future government? This feels to me a ready-made toolkit for someone with far worse motives.

As Christians we know that we have been afforded the greatest inclusion. To be grafted into God's very family. Our compassion for others and our compulsion to speak up for those least valued by the world, should in my view lead to us to be deeply concerned by this move. And as the House of Lords now scrutinises this legislation, we might pray for compassion and wisdom for those in parliament in the hope that this matter might yet be revisited...

After all, this is the season where we celebrate the arrival into this world of the ultimate outsider.

Tim Farron has been the Member of Parliament for Westmorland and Lonsdale since 2005, and served as the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party from 2015 to 2017. Tim is also the host of Premier's 'A Mucky Business' podcast, which unpacks the murky world of politics and encourages believers around the UK to engage prayerfully. You can find it on your chosen podcast provider.