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Cross-party body would ‘draw poison’ from Brexit debate, Archbishop argues

The Rt Rev Justin Welby urged the move as he compared the current situation to the two world wars when Britain was run by coalitions.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has waded into the politically bitter Brexit debate by calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to set up a cross-party commission to advise her on withdrawal negotiations.

The Rt Rev Justin Welby urged the move as he compared the current situation to the two world wars when Britain was run by coalitions.

The archbishop said a cross-party approach to Brexit talks would “draw much of the poison from the debate”.

The Anglican leader contrasted the inspiring “spirit of Grenfell” with the divisive “zero-sum, winner takes all” Brexit rows in Westminster.

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He contrasted the inspiring "spirit of Grenfell" with the divisive "zero-sum, winner takes all" Brexit rows (John Stillwell/PA)

Writing in The Mail On Sunday, he said: “We need the politicians to find a way of neutralising the temptation to take minor advantage domestically from these great events.

“We must develop a forum, or commission, or some political tool, which can hold the ring for the differences to be fought out, so that a commonly agreed negotiating aim is achieved.

“The future of this country is not a zero-sum, winner takes all calculation but must rest on the reconciled common good arrived at through good debate and disagreement.”

Referring to the commission, the Archbishop said: “It would be under the authority of Parliament, especially the Commons. It would need to be cross-party and chaired by a senior politician, on Privy Council terms. It could not bind Parliament, but well structured it could draw much of the poison from the debate.”

International Development Secretary Priti Patel rejected the Archbishop’s idea.

She told BBC Radio Five’s Pienaar’s Politics: “I think the point is, this isn’t about commissions. The public voted last year to leave the European Union. Our job as Government now is obviously securing the right deal for the country and not re-running those arguments of Remain and Leave from last year.”

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