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Bishop of Norwich signs open letter warning of no-deal Brexit risks to 'fractured country'

PUBLISHED: 15:18 28 August 2019 | UPDATED: 09:48 29 August 2019

The new Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, has signed an joint open letter from a group of Church of England clergy warning of the risks of a no-deal Brexit in a fractured country. Picture: Diocese of Norwich

The new Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, has signed an joint open letter from a group of Church of England clergy warning of the risks of a no-deal Brexit in a fractured country. Picture: Diocese of Norwich

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The new Bishop of Norwich has signed an joint open letter from a group of Church of England clergy warning of the risks of a no-deal Brexit in a "fractured country".

Norwich Cathedral from the upper close. Photo: Norwich Cathedral / Bill SmithNorwich Cathedral from the upper close. Photo: Norwich Cathedral / Bill Smith

The Rt. Revd Graham Usher, the 72nd Bishop of Norwich, added his signature to the 24 senior diocesan figures warning of the "potential cost of a no-deal Brexit to those least resilient to economic shocks".

The incoming bishop, who will be seated for the first time on the ancient throne at Norwich Cathedral on Saturday, November 9, joined his ecclesiastical colleagues in sharing his worries over the potential prorogation of Parliament.

The 25 bishops, which included the Bishop of Leeds, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Bishop of Coventry, and the Bishop of London, outlined their "particular concerns" over no deal on Wednesday, August 28, as news broke of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to suspend Parliament.

It stated: "The sovereignty of Parliament is not just an empty term, it is based on institutions to be honoured and respected: our democracy is endangered by cavalier disregard for these."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev Justin Welby, pictured, earlier confirmed he would be willing to chair a citizens forum on Brexit in principle after being approached by senior MPs. Photo: Matthew UsherThe Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev Justin Welby, pictured, earlier confirmed he would be willing to chair a citizens forum on Brexit in principle after being approached by senior MPs. Photo: Matthew Usher

The Most Rev Justin Welby earlier confirmed he would be willing to chair a citizens' forum on Brexit "in principle" after being approached by senior MPs.

The letter said: "The Archbishop of Canterbury has conditionally agreed to chair a citizens forum in Coventry and, without prejudice for any particular outcome, we support this move to have all voices in the current Brexit debate heard.

"However, we also have particular concerns about the potential cost of a no-deal Brexit to those least resilient to economic shocks.

"As bishops with pastoral responsibilities in communities across urban and rural England, we respond to the call by Jesus to tell the truth and defend the poor. We also recognise that our obligations go beyond England and impact on relations with the wider UK and our neighbours in the EU."

Leaving the EU without an agreement, the letter went on "is likely to have a massive impact on all our people".

It added: "The Government believes that leaving the EU on October 31 is essential to restoring trust and confidence. It is unlikely, however, that leaving without an agreement, regardless of consequences, will lead to reconciliation or peace in a fractured country.

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"Getting Brexit done will not happen on exit day, and we have to be transparent about the years of work ahead of us in bringing the country together for a better future. We also need to be frank about the potential costs.

"Our main social and political priority must be to leave well, paying particular attention to the impact of political decisions on those most vulnerable."

It went on: "Although we agree that respecting a public vote is essential, democracy and committed debate do not end after the counting of votes."

The letter went on to say the bishops were "deeply concerned" about "political polarisation and language that appears to sanction hate crime" and the "ease with which lies can be told and misrepresentation encouraged".

It said: "Leaders must be honest about the costs of political choices, especially for those most vulnerable."

The letter also touched upon the issues of the backstop and EU citizens.

It said: "Poor people, EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in Europe must be listened to and respected. The Irish border is not a mere political totem and peace in Ireland is not a ball to be kicked by the English: respect for the concerns on both sides of the border is essential."

Bishop Graham was nominated as Bishop of Norwich by Her Majesty the Queen in May 2019 and was legally confirmed as the Bishop in June.

The 48-year-old was previously the Bishop of Dudley and before this was rector of Hexham in Northumberland, following his time working in Middlesbrough.

The Bishop has also spent time living and working in Ghana, Africa.

He studied ecological science at the University of Edinburgh and theology at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

READ MORE: Special services across Norfolk to welcome new Bishop

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