Brexit divisions are a sign of failure

Is Brexit Finished? Is the Conservative Party finished? Is the UK finished? Is the EU finished?

These are some of the overwrought headlines and speculation that we have seen in social and mainstream media in recent days.

Journalists, politicians and the chatterati love a good crisis but how was it that a change of treaty between the UK and Europe presented such an existential crisis for those in authority in Britain and Europe?

Any free trade agreement is bound to have its complexities but this free trade agreement began with the UK and the EU aligned for all intents and purposes in a single market. There has been a long and friendly relationship and it should have been possible to negotiate continuing trust in each other’s standards against a background of disengagement.

But such has been the atmosphere of fear and recrimination that the government has found it impossible to move forward in a constructive manner.

But it is not just the government that has wavered and failed, it is all those who regarded a mere change of treaties as akin to the end of the world. They have presented an impossibilist and catastrophist vision of change that does a supreme disservice to all the other successful economies – even those on the edge of Europe – which operate perfectly well without the costly institutions of the EU.

The ideologues of the European Commission are in danger of doing great damage to long-standing friendships by taking such a cavalier and brusque tone to the negotiations.

If we end up with the kind of Brexit that is proposed by Theresa May in which sovereignty and control is severely constrained and Britain takes rules from the EU in huge swathes of the economy, then a significant part of the electorate will be left feeling angry and betrayed. The divisions in our society will grow. Alienation and distrust will dominate and could lead to unrest.

What part will the Church of England play in healing those divisions? None, because church leaders have themselves taken such anti-Brexit partisan stances.They have allied themselves with an establishment that is determined to confound a popular vote.

 

A change in direction for the Church

 

General Synod at least showed itself to be in touch with society by screening the victorious match against Sweden and cancelling some of its seminars.

Its debate on safeguarding on Saturday and a fringe meeting on Friday night have, according to reports, signalled a change of direction and most importantly ‘tone’ from the Church of England. Victims of clerical abuse have protested in recent times that their letters are not answered and that the pastoral care of the Church has been lacking.

These are long-term problems, but it might be thought that the modern Church, which has been put under so much pressure by external scrutiny of IICSA, might be moving in the right direction.

The Church has previously resisted demands to create completely independent safeguarding arrangements, arguing that it is important that the Church of England at all levels ‘owns’ its safeguarding duties. But a step in the right direction has been taken by the decision of General Synod to create an independent ombudsman to deal with complaints.

I suspect that even this proposal will be overtaken by events. There will be reports in the autumn and next year from IICSA that will undoubtedly make recommendations to the Church of England for change. I suspect that this will force the Church to submit to much greater external independent control than this.

Andrew Carey