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Press the pause button on Brexit, says Bishop in Europe

28 March 2019

Revoke Article 50 to give ‘breathing space’ says Dr Innes


Some of the hundreds of thousands of people who joined the march for a People’s Vote in London on Saturday

Some of the hundreds of thousands of people who joined the march for a People’s Vote in London on Saturday

THE Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, has said that he supports calls to revoke Article 50 and delay Brexit, so that a “national consensus” can be built.

Speaking on Wednesday, Dr Innes referred to a petition that calls on the Government to revoke Article 50, which has just over 5.9 million signatures. In response, the Government has said that it will not revoke Article 50 and “will honour the result of the 2016 referendum”.

Dr Innes said: “We need a plan B, but a well-developed and thought-through plan B is going to take time. . . . Parliament should not extend Article 50, but instead revoke it. Let’s take a pause and a deep breath, we need time to decide on what we want from the process, which is something we haven’t been able to do yet.”

Dr Innes was one of the hundreds of thousands of people who joined a march in London last Saturday, calling for a People’s Vote on Brexit. He said: “I participated to show solidarity with those who turned out, who have a real frustration with Brexit.”

It showed that “we can demonstrate peacefully in support of things close to our heart”.

“It was a very emotional experience. It was peaceable, hopeful, multicultural and joyful — it gave me real hope. There was a real sense, especially from the speeches, of support for the three million EU citizens who live in the UK.”

The First Church Estates Commissioner, Loretta Minghella, also attended the march.

She said on Tuesday: “I was proud to attend Saturday’s march, along with many friends and family.

“I did so to express my personal views. While these do not represent those of the Church Commissioners or any other organisation to which I am affiliated, I passionately believe in the right of people from all parts of our society and, whatever their perspective on the issues, to ensure that their voices are heard at a key moment in our national life.”

On Monday, MPs seized control of the Parliamentary timetable, so that they could hold a series of indicative votes on Wednesday on alternatives to the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

On Wednesday evening, MPs voted against options including “Common Market 2.0” (also known as Norway-plus); a confirmatory public vote on any deal with the EU; remaining within a customs union with the EU after Brexit; a no-deal Brexit; and revoking Article 50.

Mrs May told the 1922 Committee of the Conservative Party that she would resign as Prime Minister if they backed her twice-rejected deal, before the next phase of the Brexit process.

She was reported as saying: “I have heard very clearly the mood of the Parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach — and new leadership — in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way. . . I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended to do in order to do what is right for our country and our party.” 

On Tuesday, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman MP, said that indicative votes might “ultimately help the Government”.

Dame Caroline, a Conservative, said: “Parliament does not have a huge amount of leverage in this process. . . This helps phase two of Brexit: indicative votes will help shape the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

“The political declaration is pretty vague, and so Parliament will be able to established where the majority lies.”

Dame Caroline said that she was inclined to support a customs union. “I think it may carry, as the Opposition are in favour of it,” she said. “I do not believe the leadership of the two parties is that far apart on this issue.” (Comment, 8 February).

The indicative votes process is expected to continue over several days, as MPs attempt to narrow down options. “It will take a few days but it will gain time in the long run,” Dame Caroline said.

“I hope this process will get some colleagues to vote for the deal — if I were the Prime Minister, I would bring back the deal after the indicative votes. Curiously, it may have the effect of passing the deal.”

On Wednesday, as MPs began debating the different options, the Archbishop of Canterbury called for unity and for the referendum result to be respected. He wrote on Twitter: “It’s easy to tell MPs how badly they are doing, easy to abuse and threaten. But they have to decide for us and deserve respect. Let us pray for them . . . for a decision that has widespread support and for a process that brings national agreement.

“Reconciliation is less about agreeing than about finding out how to disagree well. We must respect the vote of the people and unite our country.”

Archbishop Welby has previously stated that a second referendum should only take place “if Parliament has failed in its responsibilities” (News, 7 December).

Speaking in the House of Lords on Monday, the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman, said: “It is deeply disturbing to see that a routine part of the daily working life of an MP is that they and their staff endure verbal assaults, attacks and threats. It cannot be right that carrying a panic alarm is now a necessity for some MPs and that constituency offices and homes are considered as places of risk for them. . .

“Whatever happens next, approximately half of us will be unhappy and angry. We will need the kind of democracy that protects our freedoms and the values we hold dear.

“For democracy to be exercised, the space where it is practised — whether in the real world or online — must be kept safe, and those who are called to serve must be protected. This is not someone else’s job: it falls to all of us to call out hatred, abuse, intimidation and threat wherever we see it happening.”

BERLINER MISSIONSWERK/G. HERZOGThe Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, with the Protestant Bishop of Berlin, Dr Markus Dröge (second from left), at Berlin Cathedral, on Sunday

In a sermon delivered at Berlin Cathedral on Sunday, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, called for solidarity between Christians in Europe.

She said: “We find ourselves in turbulent times. The ongoing discussions around Brexit mean that many of us are living with a profound feeling of uncertainty. Deep divisions in our society have been exposed, and now we are faced with an ongoing political process which risks deepening them still further.

“Our challenge in this time is not to pretend that we are all alike. We clearly are not. But to recognise, and hopefully learn in some small way to overcome our intrinsic nature which pushes away others and tries to carve out territory only for ourselves.”

This weekend, parish churches are being asked by the Archbishops to hold “tea and prayer drop-ins” to encourage reconciliation over Brexit (News, 22 March). The initiative, “Together”, is supported by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, told BBC Radio Essex on Sunday: “It’s not a big heavy agenda, but if you care about and are concerned about our cohesion as a community; if you have been troubled by some of the language and division that we’ve experienced over this issue . . . this is the first little step towards saying let’s put this behind us, even though right now, we don’t know how or why this is going to end.”

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