“We go back 103 years, we find at Christmas 1914 there was a ceasefire,” the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us in a BBC interview from Lambeth Palace. “It would be very good to have a ceasefire from insult and the use of pejorative terms about people at this time,” he suggested.
A Brexit insult truce would be wholesome Christmassy thing to do: peace on earth and goodwill to all men, and all that. The Archbishop continued:
“As a country, we have a future ahead of us. We made a decision about Brexit, that is clear; both sides are saying that. How we do that is a question for robust political argument. But there’s a difference between disagreeing and personalised attacks, and those have to be avoided, because if we’re going to make a success of Brexit – and it’s perfectly possible to do; in fact, we should make a success of it: it gives opportunities as well as challenges – then we need a political leadership that is united in their attitude to the future even if divided on policy. And therefore we do need reconciliation and unity.”
Note his measured optimism; his embrace that Brexit is really happening and (pace a few of his episcopal colleagues) the trajectory is fixed. Justin Welby is fast becoming one of the foremost advocates of a “wide and liberal” (ie Christian and global) Brexit.
But there’s a problem.
Many Church of England parishioners (quite possibly millions of them) are a little frustrated that Brexit is dragging on; indeed, they are beginning to feel somewhat duped and deceived. The Tory ‘rebels‘ or ‘traitors‘ or ‘mutineers‘ (terms which, granted, aren’t very Christmassy) who voted against the Government on Tuesday evening have fielded (and are still fielding) considerable public anger and media fallout. Taking up the Archbishop of Canterbury’s theme on BBC Question Time last night was Nicky Morgan MP:
She was duly answered (/owned) by this Barnsley man:
This vexed chap obviously knows it’s Christmas – peace on earth and goodwill to all men, and all that – but he is not in a truce kind of mood: he is manifestly sick and tired of people like Nicky Morgan, Rebecca Long-Bailey and all those other ‘elites’ who say they “respect the result” of the Referendum but clearly want to negotiate a
stitch-up deal which keeps the UK in the Single Market and in the Customs Union and so binds future governments to all present and future EU directives which obviously prevents the “wide and liberal” Brexit which the Archbishop of Canterbury now advocates. Indeed, it wouldn’t be any kind of Brexit at all.
If we are to have a ceasefire from insult and a truce on the use of pejorative terms about people at this time – which is a very laudable and wholly Christmassy objective – don’t we need to reassure angry people that their voices have been heard loud and clear, and that their democratic decision will be respected and fulfilled? Don’t a few recalcitrant bishops and all other obstinately europhile clergy need to get on board the Good Ship Brexit and become instruments of unity and reconciliation, instead of perpetually stoking the anti-Tory, anti-Brexit flames of division and discord? Archbishop, could you please just have a word with your own household before trying to harmonise others?