'Getting Brexit done' will not happen on exit day, bishops' warning over no deal

A group of Church of England bishops have issued an open letter on the prospect of a 'no-deal' Brexit and the need for national reconciliation, notwithstanding the prorogation of Parliament. 

The letter comes a day after the Archbishop of Canterbury confirmed he would be willing to chair a citizens' forum on Brexit "in principle" after being approached by senior MPs. 

But the Most Rev Justin Welby said conditions to him accepting the role "have not yet been met". He told MPs they must not use a public forum as a way of attempting to stop Brexit. 

 

He said: "It is an unexpected privilege to be asked to chair this proposed citizens' forum on Brexit.” 

The bishops said in their letter they “support this move to have all voices in the current Brexit debate heard”. 

25 Bishops have signed the letter, in which they raise concerns about the potential cost of a no deal Brexit to those least resilient to economic shocks. 

In the letter they said as bishops with pastoral responsibilities in communities across urban and rural England, “we respond to the call by Jesus to tell the truth and defend the poor. We also recognise that our obligations go beyond England and impact on relations with the wider UK and our neighbours in the EU. 

“Exiting the EU without an agreement is likely to have a massive impact on all our people and the Government is rightly preparing for this outcome. 

“The Government believes that leaving the EU on 31 October is essential to restoring trust and confidence. It is unlikely, however, that leaving without an agreement, regardless of consequences, will lead to reconciliation or peace in a fractured country. “Getting Brexit done” will not happen on exit day, and we have to be transparent about the years of work ahead of us in bringing the country together for a better future. We also need to be frank about the potential costs.” 

In the letter it goes on to say the main priority, socially and politically is to “leave well, paying particular attention to the impact of political decisions on those most vulnerable.” 

“We hold different views about Brexit and how our country should proceed from here. However, although we agree that respecting a public vote is essential, democracy and committed debate do not end after the counting of votes. 

“Our concern for the common good leads us to express concern about a number of matters. Our conviction is that good governance can only ever be based on the confidence of the governed, and that includes minorities whose voice is not as loud as others.” 

Concerns they raise include, political polarisation and “language that appears to sanction hate crime” as well as “the levels of fear, uncertainty and marginalisation in society.” 

It also stated that the sovereignty of Parliament needs to be “honoured and respected” and that “our democracy is endangered by cavalier disregard for these.” 

They also raise concerns over the Irish border and said it, “is not a mere political totem and peace in Ireland is not a ball to be kicked by the English: respect for the concerns on both sides of the border is essential.” 

Bishops who’ve signed the letter include; the Bishop of London, Rt Rev Hon Dame Sarah Mullaly DBE, the Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell and the Bishop of Truro, Rt Rev Philip Mountstephen.  

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