Brexit chaos weighs heavy on minds of bishops at start of new year

The Bishop of Burnley is praying for a 'new start' in British politics weeks before Parliament votes on a divisive Brexit deal.  

Ahead of the key vote set for mid-January, Bishop Philip North appealed in his New Year's Message for Leavers and Remainers to listen to each other. 

'As we begin this new year, where in your life would you like to see or make a new start? I am praying at the moment for three new starts. The first is for a new start in our political life,' he said.

'May the angry and discordant voices that bombard us at the moment sit down together and listen to each other so that together we can carve out a new future for our nation and go on being a voice for peace and justice in our world.' 

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Julian Henderson, shared his concerns over Brexit as he called on people to live in such a way as to bring peace not only to themselves but to their neighbours.

'At the moment we are living in a time of political chaos and who knows where the Brexit negotiations are going to end up as we enter into 2019,' he said. 

'I'm sure we all wish for a level of pattern and order, stability, in our political life as we move forward. Whatever our relations are going to be with the European Union we want order.'

MPs will be voting on the UK's Brexit deal the week beginning January 14. In an interview with the Sunday Times, trade minister Liam Fox said there was a '50-50' chance of Brexit being cancelled completely if Parliament votes down Theresa May's deal.

'If we were not to vote for that, I'm not sure I would give it [Brexit] much more than 50-50,' he told the newspaper.

In an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told Britain to 'get your act together' over its withdrawal from the EU. 

'My appeal is this. Get your act together and then tell us what it is you want. Our proposed solutions have been on the table for months,' he said. 

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, regardless of whether a deal has been secured, but the Observer reports that senior Tory and Labour MPs have been working behind the scenes to delay Brexit by several months. 

An unnamed Tory backbencher told the newspaper: 'I have had these discussions with ministers. They will not say so in public but of course the option of a delay has to be looked at in detail now.

'If we are determined to avoid a no deal, and the prime minister's deal fails, we will have to ask to stop the clock, and that will give time for us to decide to go whatever way we decide thereafter.'