Brexit: Ireland’s major churches appeal to UK and EU for clarity

Leaders welcome commitments to protect the Belfast Agreement

Ireland's main church leaders have appealed to the United Kingdom and Europen Union "to act with urgency and generosity," on Brexit.

They have called on both sides to provide “much needed certainty on the economic and social implications” of Brexit, and to provide “a framework within which future challenges can be addressed on the basis of relationships of trust and mutual respect”.

In a joint statement on Tuesday they also point out "the future relationship between the UK and the European Union will be the focus of debate and negotiation for many years to come".

Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin, Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop John McDowell, Presbyterian Moderator Rev Dr David Bruce, Methodist President Rev Tom McKnight, and President of the Irish Council of Churches Rev Dr Ivan Patterson said "with limited time remaining to prepare for the outworking of Brexit, it is in everyone's interests to achieve the clarity and security an agreement will provide".

This, they said, was “especially true for those whose resources are already stretched by the impact of Covid-19”.

The church leaders said they did not "underestimate the challenges faced by the negotiating parties in terms of the complexity and the significance of what is at stake". They welcomed "the important commitment of both parties in the negotiations to the protection of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in all its parts".

They hoped “the agreement might serve as a source of inspiration and a foundation to build upon as we continue to work through the Brexit process”.

The agreement was "rightly regarded as an act of significant global leadership in peace and reconciliation, an achievement that belongs not only to the people of Northern Ireland, but to the British and Irish people and Governments, with the support of the EU and friends in the United States, " they said, adding that at its heart was "an acknowledgement of our interdependence".

The Covid-19 pandemic had “further heightened our awareness of the need to manage risk collaboratively, not only between Britain and Ireland, but on a European and wider international level,” they said.

There were “other major challenges on the horizon that are global in nature and will require nations to coordinate their responses and demonstrate a shared vision in their leadership,” they said, pointing out “trade agreements cannot be separated from this wider network of relations because they have vital social and ethical dimensions”.