COMECE: British and Irish Bishops on Brexit
During their Plenary Assembly, the COMECE Bishops had an exchange on the outcome and consequences of the referendum in the United Kingdom.
Bishop William Kenney, delegate of the England and Wales Bishops’ Conference, explained that since the outcome of the Brexit referendum ‘there is very little clarity as to what is going to happen or what consequences will ensue.’ He said he believes the Church has a very important role in the discussions which would follow. ‘As the UK negotiates the various trade treaties which it will need, the Church needs to give a voice to the marginalised and underprivileged.’
Bishop Nicholas Hudson, auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, said he was particularly concerned by the increased levels of hate crimes against foreigners in the United Kingdom after the Brexit referendum. ‘We as Church need to firmly condemn these crimes’ he said.
Bishop Hugh Gilbert, from the Bishop’s Conference of Scotland, offered a brief analysis of the motivations for the Brexit vote and the reasons for Scotland’s strong option to ‘remain’. The renewed debate regarding Scottish independence is not the most relevant consequence of the vote. ‘There is rather a pervasive uncertainty’ according to him.
‘Young people in particular feel disenfranchised’ said Mgr Noel Treanor, the Bishop of Down & Connor (Belfast) and delegate of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. He outlined a range of possible impacts of Brexit both for Northern Ireland and for the Republic of Ireland. Among the issues of concern, he drew particular attention to: the Brexit-impact on the peace process and the post good Friday political institutions; the question of a hard or soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and in particular the All-Ireland impact. ‘Uncertainty reigns in Ireland’ he concluded.