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23 August 2019

WHO will defend the British people against their defenders? The leak at the weekend of the Yellowhammer documents — official assessments of how seriously and how quickly things in the UK will go wrong in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October — has given the general public access to the advice that the Government has been receiving all the while it has been making reassuring and dismissive statements about how smooth a no-deal transition would be. It is just possible to forgive politicians who pursue an ideological line in ignorance of the consequences. This is mere incompetence. There is no excuse for those who promote a policy when they have been fully informed that the con­sequences will be damaging to the people they are supposed to represent. Just one line from the Yellowhammer documents suffices: “Low-income groups will be dispropor­tionately affected by rises in the price of food and fuel.” As for arguing that those in low-income groups were predominantly Leave voters, at no point in the 2016 campaign was the likelihood of economic hardship acknowledged by those such as Boris Johnson who were pushing to leave the EU. The Church’s bias to the poor, though sadly muted these days, none the less requires it to speak out against moves that, on official authority, will cause the poor great hardship.

Baby, bathwater

OUR letters section this week carries strongly expressed reservations about the new proposals for marriage registration. Certainly, when people in the Church were applauding the new equalities included in the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration, etc) Act, they appeared not to have considered the implications of what seems, on the face of it, a mere switch in paper-shuffling. But if couples are offered a one-stop-shop option by register offices (or, increasingly registrar-led ceremonies in fancy hotels and not-so-fancy oddball venues), then it is one more disincentive to opt for a church wedding, given that the latter involves what sounds like a redeemable voucher and the need to arrange for it to be presented to a register office within seven days of the wedding. At worst, couples who marry in church will not feel properly married, with the prospect of a further hurdle to get over, and with the risk of a punitive fine should they fail to do so within an arbitrary period. It would be perfectly possible for the information to be prepared digitally in advance, to be confirmed online after the ceremony by the officiating priest. Church House, Westminster, is currently in negotiations with the General Register Office. Sparing clergy the anxiety of incorrectly filling in a certificate — this is a genuine and persistent fear — might be too small a gain when compared with the loss in status of a church wedding.

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