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‘Put aside differences’ to find a way through on Brexit, Bishop Lowson tells politicians

17 January 2019

Bishops speak out amid the uncertainty surrounding Brexit


Artful disagreement: The Annunciation (pictured) by Leonardo Da Vinci is one of three paintings by the artist which currently reside in Italy, but which the country’s Eurosceptic coalition government has refused to lend to France for a forthcoming exhibition at the Louvre, in Paris, to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death. Italy first threatened to withdraw the offer in November, and relations between the countries deteriorated on Monday. An Italian junior culture minister, Lucia Borgonzoni, told The Times that lending its stock of Leonardos would “put Italy on the margins of a major cultural event”

Artful disagreement: The Annunciation (pictured) by Leonardo Da Vinci is one of three paintings by the artist which cu...

POLITICIANS need to put aside their personal differences to find a way through on Brexit, the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, said on Wednesday.

Speaking after the defeat of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement, Bishop Lowson said: “The need is for us as a nation, and especially in the Commons, is to listen to the people and to find a way forward that most can agree on.”

He went on: “We need to put aside our personal differences to find this way. Whether we have a general election or a second referendum is a question for the politicians.

“But I think there needs to be some kind of discovery process so the Commons can work out what they find acceptable — taking the temperature of what is possible. There has to be some give and take, though.

“As a nation, we have been through some fairly significant challenges over the centuries and we have found a way through them. As Christians, we believe that God will find a way forward.”

Bishop Lowson was one of four bishops to vote against the Prime Minister’s deal in the House of Lords, along with the Bishops of London, Durham, and Birmingham.

He said: “I voted against this deal, not a deal. I also voted to stress that the impact of no deal will be huge, particularly on the more vulnerable in society.”

Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a speech in the Lords that leaving the EU without a deal would be “not only a political and practical failure but a moral one equally as serious as ignoring the result of the referendum entirely”; and the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman MP, said that “the human cost to leaving without a deal is too great” (News, 11 January).

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, said on Wednesday: “The country voted for Brexit — but that does not mean accepting a deal at any cost. Equally, the prospect of no deal at all risks severe economic hardship which the most vulnerable in our society will bear the brunt of.”

After the vote on Tuesday, the EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening’s vote.

“While we do not want this to happen, the European Commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared.”

In December, the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, said the UK’s political actions were “bewildering” for Europe (News, 13 December 2018).

Bishop Mullally went on: “Our churches have a vital, active role to play at the centres of their communities, focusing on strength and unity in a time of profound uncertainty. Amidst the fear and division that the current political situation risks fuelling, I am heartened to see every day in parishes across London people from all sorts of backgrounds, people who readily come and work together in this great, world-city, recognising that they have so much more they agree upon than divides them. Our politicians could do well to follow that example.

“For my former employer, the National Health Service, the picture is gravely uncertain. Even before the Referendum, almost 15 per cent of all nursing posts in the capital were vacant according to the Royal College of Nursing. On top of those existing recruitment pressures, the clear effect of just the prospect of Brexit has been to drive more and more EEA nurses out of the NHS, and tighter immigration controls would only exacerbate the problem.

“We risk making the NHS less safe. We are closing the door on the very people that our health depends upon, when in fact we need to be extending a welcome to them.”

The Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, posted on Twitter after the vote: “With people in Dudley voting 67.6 per cent to leave the EU, and with continued uncertainty, I’m keen to step up the conversation about how churches, working with others, can live out their calling to be peacemakers and reconcilers in a divided society. All ideas welcome.”

He added: “Let’s pray. Let’s listen. Let’s talk well. Let’s be creative. Let’s heal divisions. Let’s find new ways. Let’s do a new politics. Let’s seek reconciliation. Let’s work & walk together. Let’s prioritise the poor & vulnerable. In the coming weeks, let’s discover how to ‘love our neighbour’.”

Leader comment: Brexit: What next?

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