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Brexit row is over, says Archbishop of York

07 February 2020

Sam Atkins/Church Times

Dr Sentamu addresses the General Synod in York, in July

Dr Sentamu addresses the General Synod in York, in July

PEOPLE should accept that the Brexit debate is over, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, has said.

Writing for The Yorkshire Post after the UK left the European Union, Dr Sentamu said: “We are leaving the European Union, and the next decade needs to move on from whether we do it to how we do it, in a way that least hurts our communities and opens up opportunity for all.”

Last Friday, at 11 p.m., Brexit was marked by a countdown clock in Downing Street. It is not the end of Brexit: a transition period has now begun, which lasts until 31 December, during which complex negotiations will be conducted to extricate the UK from the EU regulatory structure.

Dr Sentamu wrote on Saturday: “The very continuing divisions in our country exposed by the Brexit debate highlight the need for us to find grounds to move forward together under a common narrative and shared hope, discovering the wellsprings of solidarity.

“To use the old algebraic formulae — we need to move away from seeking the lowest common denominator in our national conversation and move towards rediscovering our highest common factor — although the lowest denominator is a high number.”

Speaking last Friday, the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, said: “I was delighted to go along to an event hosted by the Mayor of Brussels on the eve of the UK’s exit from the European Union. The love and warmth towards the UK at the event was plain for all to see. The EU and its member states regret deeply this UK decision. So do I. But I urge us now to move on from these recent years of division and discord.

“The mission of the Church across our diocese is to serve the peoples of Europe, as we have been doing for over 400 years. As Anglicans in Europe, we will use voice, influence, and social action across our 300 congregations wherever we can, amongst those who need our support and care.”

On Monday, at an event in Greenwich, the Prime Minister set out his vision for the trade deal that he would like to secure with the EU.

He said: “There is no need for a free-trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment, or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules. . .

“The choice is emphatically not ‘deal or no deal’. The question is whether we agree a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada’s, or more like Australia’s. In either case, I have no doubt that Britain will prosper. And, of course, our new relationship with our closest neighbours will range far beyond trade. We will seek a pragmatic agreement on security, protecting our citizens without trespassing on the autonomy of our respective legal systems.”

In his Yorkshire Post article, Dr Sentamu argued: “Moving forward together means respecting there is room for people to change their minds and do so without recrimination. How people voted in the past should not determine how we listen to them or value their opinions.

“The debate of the past few years has highlighted there is no such common ideology over Brexit. What remains is the pragmatism to see this through and come to a place where our common cause in that which we share together triumphs over that which divides us.”

Dr Innes said: “Our voice [the diocese in Europe] will be heard in defending the rights and dignity of those on the margins of society, and shaping our communities as places of welcome across Europe, especially for refugees and migrants fleeing the destruction of their lives and persecution.

“In our mission and engagement across European institutions, we will combat racism, discrimination, and xenophobia in all their forms.”

After a xenophobic “Happy Brexit Day” poster was put up in a Norwich tower block, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, said: “There needs to be a fostering of those great British values of tolerance, understanding, and of love and care for our neighbours.”

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