BISHOPS must “tell the truth” about the consequences of Brexit, regardless of “what people think they want to hear”, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, has said.
Writing in this week’s Church Times as part of a ten-page Brexit special, Bishop Baines, who leads on Europe for the Lords Spiritual, argues that “bishops and the Church have a responsibility to speak on controversial matters such as Brexit, whatever might have been the dominant vote in their particular diocese.”
He continues: “I was told in the General Synod that the bishops were out of touch with poor people in the north, and should accept their suspicion of immigrants, [their] resentment against established politics, and populist anger. Try suggesting that to bishops in 1930s Germany, or 1970s USSR.”
Among the contributors to the Brexit special are Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, an Anglican priest and former banker and Government minister, who argues: “Leaving the EU without a deal would cause serious disruption in the short term, undermine peace in Ireland, and weaken Britain strategically for a long period of time. Those who think we should make a clean break have not understood either the risks or the lessons of history.”
Ann Pettifor, an award-winning economist, is another contributor. She says that a “hard” Brexit would lead to “a complete breakdown of the arrangements that make trade possible”, and to a “severe recession in the short term”.
The Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, offers a perspective from Brussels, where “negotiations . . . have changed remarkably in a positive direction”. But he regrets the way in which the media, on both sides of the Channel, “are awash with information about a broad range of unpleasant consequences in the event of a ‘no deal’”.
Speaking on this week’s episode of the Church Times Podcast, Bishop Baines says: “However calamitous Brexit is, and I think it will be bad, the fact is that you over time begin to rework it and build up a new reality. It may take 25 years, that means a generation suffers, but that’s the reality. I wish it was different, but it isn’t.
“If businesses leave the City and leave this country, there’s going to be less tax revenue to provide the safety nets that we feel people ought to have. And it’s bad enough after a decade of austerity. That may get worse and churches – where income may be less because people suffer – we’re going to have to see how we care for those around us.”
The Church will also need to “articulate and forge reconciliation, and create the conversations that need to be had between those who are bitterly divided”, he says.
“The big problem is that we’re a very divided country. Even if we had a referendum that voted to remain, we don’t go back to where we were before this started; we’re bitterly divided. We have to pay attention to how we attend to that with the ministry of reconciliation that has been committed to us.”
The Church should tell people the truth about Brexit, not what they want to hear, says Nick Baines
Read the full Brexit issue in tomorrow’s Church Times, in print and online.
Listen to an interview with Bishop Baines on the Church Times Podcast.