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"Get back to your vestries" Conservative MP criticises Bishops' Brexit intervention

by Cara Bentley

The Church of England bishops wrote in an open letter: "Exiting the EU without an agreement is likely to have a massive impact on all our people and the Government is rightly preparing for this outcome.

"It is unlikely, however, that leaving without an agreement, regardless of consequences, will lead to reconciliation or peace in a fractured country."

The Prime Minister's decision on Wednesday to close parliament between mid-September and the Queen's speech on 14th October was also referenced, with them saying: "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."

Sir Desmond Swayne, a Christian and pro-Brexit Conservative MP for New Forest West, told Premier's News Hour he was in favour of Mr Johnson's latest move, saying: "I think it's longer overdue and as for the hot air and the outrage - it's bogus nonsense. The fact is that a session of Parliament normally lasts a year, this one has lasted over double that. It is high time that we had the prorogation that normally preceeds the new session of Parliament so that the government can set out its agenda. As for taking away the opportunities of those who are opposed to Brexit to do what they want to do, a mere three sitting days are being lost, three sitting days. The rest is just hyperbole and hot air from the usual suspects."

When asked what he thought of the bishops' comments he replied: "I'm inclined to say get back to your vestries. What on earth has this got to do with theology and with building the kingdom of Christ on Earth? This is not an issue where the bishops have expertise or any license to act whatsoever. I think it's entirely inappropriate!"

"We do certainly do live in highly unusual times but if the Prime Minister hadn't not acted today in the way he's done, there would only be three more sitting days than would otherwise be the case.

Sir Desmond Swayne, who has represented his constituency since 1997, added that although Mr Johnson's decision to close parliament does make a vote of no confidence more likely, he doesn't think the opposition parties would win, even with member of his own party who have been "sticking their heads above the parapit and saying so".

When asked if the prorogation was not a limit on each MP's job to be the check and balance of government, he replied: "They're being limited by three days. Big deal."

"I believe that this sends a powerful signal to the European Union, that we are serious about leaving on the 31st of October with a without a deal and that focuses them on the reality and the need to negotiate seriously, which they've never had over the last two and a half wasted years."

To listen to the full interview click here:

To listen to Premier's Cara Bentley's interview Labour MP Rachael Maskell, who thinks Boris Johnson is wrong to prorogue parliament, click here:


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