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Mixed reactions to talk of Welby in cross-party discussions about Brexit

by Cara Bentley

On Monday, it was reported that there had been talks about Justin Welby chairing a group of 100 MPs from across the political spectrum to discuss the next steps regarding Britian exiting the European Union.

This has not been confirmed by Lambeth Palace.

The citizen's assembly would, according to The Times, convene at Coventry Cathedral and try to make recommendations to parliament.

Some have said Archbishop Justin should stay out of politics altogether, others are simply criticising the fact that this assembly would be formed to stop a no-deal Brexit, meaning it would look like the head of the Church of England is enforcing an agenda rather than trying to help everyone in the country.

Sir Gerald Howarth, former Conservative MP, Brexiteer and Christian, told Premier: "This is a very sensitive political issue and I know the Archbishop reasonably well, he's a very intelligent man, but I think that he is treading on very thin ice here if he's going to get involved in this very tortuous business.

"People just want out, they want us to get on with it. The people, having had a vote on the matter, don't need a citizen's assembly, they had the largest democratic vote this country's ever experienced with 17.4 million people voting to leave the European Union after a very, very long public debate where all the issues, all the dangers, all potential dangers were well advertised.

He added: "We just have to get on with it now and sitting round Coventry Cathedral working out what alternatives there might be...I'm afraid it's too late, the die is cast."

The Church of England's Bishop of Buckingham, Rt Rev Alan Wilson, told Premier he is in favour of the church getting involved: "When I first heard of it I thought this is quite a good idea because Coventry Cathedral is involved and we know that they have real strength in reconciliation. They've been working at this stuff well since the Second World War so they've dealt with life in all its fullness.

"There is a Christian mandate from Jesus about loving our neighbour as ourselves and that means a concern that the best possible outcome comes from all this for everybody."

Bishop Alan continued: "I think a discipline process which actually helps people to articulate their deepest hopes and feelings and dreams and fears about this cannot possibly do any harm to anybody.

"The whole idea that you just leave it to the professionals and the politicians to sort it all for you and they can tell us all what we think, I'm not convinced on the basis of the experience we've had the last couple of years that that's the way it works! The professional politicians have somewhat got into sticky toffee, to put it kindly, in all the major parties. So, to engage people in the process of listening and discernment that is balanced in this way, in a place that has a tremendous track record in terms of human flourishing and reconciliation, seems to me a really good idea."

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