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08 December 2017

THIS week’s flurry of political activity has exposed just how dysfunctional the Brexit process is. It is remarkable that the Government should attempt to agree a deal on the Irish border without first showing the wording to the party on whose votes it relies for its majority in the Commons. The dysfunctionality goes much deeper than that, however. The real misfortune is that the sort of detail that is beginning to emerge in the border debate ought to have been available to the UK electorate when they were considering which side to back in the referendum. Instead, the pre-vote debate was corrupted by unrealistic assurances that Britain could pick and mix which aspects of the European Union that it wished to keep. Even now, when a sense of realism is finally emerging, any concrete projections of how Brexit might play out are hard to come by. The Government’s economic impact assessments, two lever-arch files extricated under protest from the Brexit Secretary and kept virtually under lock and key in a parliamentary reading-room are said to contain very little information about how the UK economy might fare.

In truth, a smooth Brexit could have been achieved with good will on both sides. But the severance was founded upon ill will: a rejection by a large segment of the UK electorate of the European vision of harmony and co-operation. In consequence, the cavalier attitude of the Brexiteers has been met with incomprehension and hostility within the remaining EU countries. And now, at the first hurdle (which ought to have been cleared much further back down the track), the Government has stumbled, as regulatory alignment — an obvious and essential prerequisite for continued trade with Ireland and the rest of Europe — has been rejected by the Prime Minister’s semi-detached allies in the DUP. It is hard to see how this can end well.


Hard border?


TALKING of borders, it is difficult to know what sort of relationship the Church of England might wish to have with the Anglican Mission in England, the breakaway group who this week were planning to ordain their first home-grown priests. The ordinations took place in a Baptist church, and it would be unecumenical not to afford the fledgling group the same welcome as any other denomination. Rivalry has no place in the Christian body. It is true that there would be less chance of friction or confusion were they to drop the term “Anglican” from their title: the last group to leave the C of E in any sort of orderly way, the Ordinariate, recognised that being out of communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury invalidated the term. But, nevertheless, we wish them well.

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