A CROSS-PARTY alliance over Brexit negotiations is essential to “draw the poison” from the debate and unite the country for the common good, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
The UK is still divided, one year after 52 per cent of the electorate voted in favour of leaving the European Union, last June, Archbishop Welby writes in a comment piece for the Mail on Sunday. The fire at Grenfell Tower, he goes on, “also served to highlight divisions in our society. Many, including the Prime Minister herself, have recognised that support from the state has been inadequate in North Kensington. We have been severely tested in how we handle diversity, integration, social mobility and inequality. Failure in these areas is ultimately a failure of values.”
He also pointed to the aftermath of the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London. “We have seen diversity integrated in community and decorated with courage. We know what we can be, both for good and ill, and we are at a moment where that difference sets our future. We have seen courage and generosity and all that makes for a good and flourishing society.
“We have also seen failures of government and a sort of tragic unwillingness to face the realities of divisions and people being left behind. We need to choose between the selflessness of the former and the inward looking ‘me-first’ attitudes of the latter.”
Advocating selfish politics would be a “disaster” for the country, he writes. “With a hung Parliament, there is an understandable temptation for every difference to become a vote of confidence, a seeking of momentary advantage ahead of the next election.
“For that to happen would be a disaster if our negotiators, faced with the united determination of the EU, go into the room without confidence in their backing in the UK. It might turn us inwards and forfeit the opportunity to be a country the world admires and blesses for our generosity and vision.
“Politics is rightly hard and tough. We must not pretend otherwise. But for Brexit, we need the politicians to find a way of neutralising the temptation to take minor advantage domestically from these great events.”
Archbishop Welby proposes a concrete political solution: the creation of a cross-party forum or commission for all Brexit negotiations, chaired by a senior politician, under the authority of the Government. “It could not bind Parliament, but well-structured it could draw much of the poison from the debate.
“A country united after Brexit is essential if we want a country that is resilient under the threats we face, capable of ensuring that the victims of Grenfell Tower are cared for and its lessons learned, and courageous in making our way in the post-Brexit world. The decisions we make over the next two years will have an impact for generations to come.”