The bishops of the Church of England have called for respect on all sides amid growing acrimony over the debate on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. A statement issued by the Church of England’s College of Bishops calls for a new tone of listening and respect in debates and describes the use of language in some cases as “unacceptable”. It urged for the 2016 referendum to be honoured and for the rule of law and impartiality of the courts to be upheld. “We should speak and listen to others with respect,” it reads. “We should not denigrate, patronise or ignore the honest views of fellow citizens, but seek to respect their opinions and their votes.”
“Our concern is also for the structure and the constitution of the United Kingdom. To use the words of Jesus, we must renew the structures that enable us to “love one another”. “It is easy to descend into division and abuse, but finding unity again takes far longer. Further entrenching our divisions, whether from uncertainty or from partisanship, is not worthy of our country nor the leadership we now need. It is our view and most solemn warning that we must find better ways of acting.”
Boris Johnson’s senior adviser criticised many MPs as being “disconnected” from what people think in the “real world”, as the Prime Minister refused to apologise over his controversial words. The PM stoked tensions during fiery exchanges in the Commons where he repeatedly described attempts to block no-deal as the “surrender act”. He also dismissed a Labour MP’s complaint that his “inflammatory” language risked provoking attacks as “humbug”. He was facing calls to apologise for language that pits politicians against voters and was even criticised by his sister Rachel Johnson for using “strongman” tactics.
But the PM’s de facto chief of staff Mr Cummings risked further stoking tensions, for blaming MPs for not respecting the result of the 2016 referendum, adding: “It is not surprising some people are angry about it.” He said that both Leave and Remain campaigners have had “serious threats” of violence, which should be taken seriously. “In the end the situation can only be resolved by Parliament honouring its promise to respect the result,” he added. Mr Cummings described the current chaos as “a walk in the park” compared to the referendum during which he was Vote Leave campaign director. “We are enjoying this, we are going to leave and we are going to win,” he added.
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