Brexit: EU trade tariffs; Bishop Baines; cover photo
From Mr Tim Aldred
Sir, — Michael Cavaghan-Pack’s contention (Letters, 6 September) that tariffs are placed by the European Union on developing countries needs to be addressed.
Products exported to the EU and UK from least developed countries qualify for zero tariffs (except for armaments sales). Other developing countries are also offered lower tariffs by the EU, with those that have signed EU trade agreements on zero-tariff arrangements in most circumstances.
Top priority on Brexit Day 1 must be to ensure that the zero or low-tariff arrangements that currently apply are replicated. Yet some of these are currently at risk and could have an impact on countries such as Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
While Fairtrade has generally not taken a position on Brexit’s broader politics, “no deal” is especially worrying for Fairtrade farmers, owing to the increased trade costs and disruption to customs arrangements in that scenario.
For example, Kenya’s flower industry employs 150,000 people. At the moment, most flowers reach the UK via wholesale markets in the Netherlands; so any border delays could result in flowers wilting on the Zeebrugge docks, with the additional cost borne by producers. Going in the other direction, chocolate and coffee companies based in the UK export Fairtrade products onwards to the Continent. No deal increases their costs in similar ways with the added risk of facing new tariffs.
Of course, the UK could possibly improve on the EU’s current arrangements, if there is serious and sustained commitment to prioritising developing-country needs in future UK trade policy. In the short to medium term, however, the urgent challenge is to avoid serious harm.
The Fairtrade Foundation
5.7 The Loom, 14 Gower’s Walk
London E1 8PY
From the Revd Michael J. Maine
Sir, — I am profoundly distressed by the whole tenor of the one-sided article by the Bishop of Leeds regarding the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (Comment, 6 September).
As Christians, we are called to speak out against injustice, poverty, and those things that separate people from the knowledge of God’s radical love; but we should never do so in a personal way. This demonises the other, and is the opposite of our calling and vocation. The vilification of individuals is also dangerous, and we know that it can lead to tragic circumstances. Jesus himself uses the term “liar” only once (John 8.44), and this is in regard to evil personified in the devil.
The Gospel reading this past Sunday spoke of division, but at its heart is the understanding of the fullness of life to which we are all called. This is through the saving grace of the Cross — the self-giving love of the Lord — which draws each of us to both know, live, and share resurrection life.
Ultimately, Jesus calls us to challenge situations that we feel strongly about, but, more importantly, to offer the balm of God’s healing grace even to those with whom we profoundly disagree.
MICHAEL J. MAINE
The Vicarage, 5 Barrowfield
Cuckfield, Haywards Heath RH17 5ER
From Mr Simon Neale
Sir, — Bishop Nick Baines’s denunciation of government lies regarding Brexit is suggestive of a small child who overhears adults arguing and realises, wide-eyed, that grown-ups can’t always be trusted. Most of us realise and accept, albeit sadly, that politicians lie. But the Bishop’s high-mindedness would have been a more believable pose had he been more even-handed with his denunciations.
Were, for example, any lies told when the Government promised the people of the UK that they would honour the results of the 2016 referendum on leaving the EU? And might a few minor untruths have slipped out during the many explanations as to why we were wrong to vote the way we did, and why we have not yet left?
The Glebe House, 41 Furners Mead
Henfield, West Sussex BN5 9JA
From the Revd David Cossar SSC
Sir, — I was disgusted at the cover photo (6 September) depicting the Prime Minister as a clown. I always understood that the PM, whoever he or she may be, was worthy of respect, because of the great office of state that he or she holds. I know that protesters invariably carry banners disrespectful to those in authority, and it is their right to do so.
That photo, however, should never have appeared on the cover of a paper like the Church Times. It is not funny; it is insulting to the Queen’s First Minister. It merely gives free publicity to the protesters.
7 Broadbridge Close
London SE3 7AD
From M. Perry
Sir, — When I saw the front page of this week’s Church Times with its picture of a young woman holding a placard deriding our Prime Minister, I was disgusted. I think it was offensive towards Boris Johnson and a biased, even bigoted, statement about the Brexit confusion. It also implied that anyone who aspires to be young, good-looking, and obviously decent ought to feel the same.
I feel that the Church Times has not represented the view of a Church that should be above making prejudiced personal judgments of people doing the best they can for our country. It seems that the Church Times has sunk to the worst levels of journalism. Such bigotry is unbecoming in a paper that calls itself Christian.
I don’t take the Church Times, but we order it for people who come to our shop. If this kind of prejudice is now the direction that the Church Times is taking, then one might be inclined not to make it available any longer.
Stawley Village Shop and Tea Room
Appley Cross, Wellington
Somerset TA21 0HH
From Catherine Ward
Sir, — I think it is a great pity that the Church Times chooses to mock the Prime Minister on its front cover. No wonder the Church has a bad name. Where is respect?
4 Framland Drive
Leicestershire LE13 1HY
From Mr David Waugh
Sir, — Brexit is not a moral, still less a religious, issue. It is purely political, and in fact, rather trivial. I will not be renewing my subscription.
33 Mayne Crest
Essex CM1 6UA
From Canon Tony Bishop
Sir, — There seems to be a consensus of opinion that clergy and Christian leaders should remain neutral in the Brexit debate, and not come down clearly on one side or the other. In opposition to this, and while acknowledging that there were those who voted Leave in the referendum for what they sincerely thought were good, ethically based reasons, I believe that a sound biblical and Christian case can be made for Britain’s continued membership of the EU, for several reasons:
First, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and the formation of the EU is probably the most significant step that has been taken since the Second World War towards the maintenance of peace in an increasingly fractious and dangerous world. Surely, as people of peace, we should be doing all we can to support it.
Second, the Old Testament insists in many places that we should be compassionate and supportive to the poorest and most vulnerable in society, and care for the sick and the elderly. The overwhelming weight of informed opinion is that Brexit can only make things more difficult for these people; so, out of consideration for them, we should not be taking the risk.
Third, the OT also commands us to welcome the stranger and the alien and to treat them in the same way as the native-born. Any course of action which could be detrimental to them, as will inevitably happen under Brexit, should be resisted.
Fourth, it is a Christian duty to maintain order, try to prevent crime, fight terrorism, and protect the security of all members of society. Breaking links with the institutions of the EU and lessening our cooperation with Interpol, for example, would prejudice our chances of doing this effectively. It could also be added that the controversy on the issue seems to have stirred up unwholesome levels of racism and xenophobia.
Is it not time for us to discuss with one another what might be the will of God for our country?
7 High Meadows, Chigwell
Essex IG7 5JY
It’s time to review cathedral and college deanery
From Don Manley
Sir, — The reinstatement of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford (News, 6 September), has been welcomed by many of us in this diocese, and we all hope for reconciliation at the college. The whole episode does, however, highlight the anomalous situation in Oxford, where a dean does double duty as a college principal and cathedral head, and a building does similar double duty as a college chapel and a cathedral.
Given that the Bishop of Oxford agreed to the suspension of the Dean from his cathedral duties once the college had suspended him, it looks as though the authority of the college has been allowed to trump that of the Church of England. Whatever one’s personal judgement on recent events, it is surely time for the dual arrangements at Christ Church to be re-examined.
26 Hayward Road
Oxford OX2 8LW
Marriage registration: keep watching this space
From Canon Sandra Millar
Sir, — In response to Dave Walker’s cartoon (30 August), and related letters and articles over the past couple of weeks, may I say clearly that the Government has not yet made any announcement on either the details or the implementation date for the marriage-registration provisions in the Civil Partnerships, Marriage and Deaths (Registration etc.) Act 2019.
Both the Church of England and the Church in Wales are continuing to hold discussions with the Government about the proposals and their implications for churches, and, if and when they are finalised, will communicate clearly and accurately.
Updates will be posted on churchsupporthub.org as well as on www.churchofengland.org, and the website that gives couples planning to marry in church all the information they need, www.yourchurchwedding.org, will also be updated when the timescale is agreed.
Head of Life Events
Evangelism and Discipleship
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ
Bolz-Weber’s message is not a prosperity gospel
From the Revd David Runcorn
Sir, — When the Revd David Baker (Letters, 6 September) claims that the possibility that people may come to know “fulness of their erotic selves” is not promised anywhere in the New Testament, I assume that he believes that Christ’s promise of “life in all its fullness” specifically excludes human sexual expression and intimacy.When he calls Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book, Shameless, a “prosperity gospel”, you wonder whether he has read it. Far from encouraging casual indulgence, her unique teaching style is highly effective in offering healing and good news to those very people most damaged by more repressive conservative teaching on sexuality and intimacy — a point that the Revd Dr Ian Paul (Letters, same issue) misses, too.
32 The Avenue, Tiverton
Devon EX16 4HW