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Bishops visit EU in advance of Brexit

By Ann Marie Foley - 28 September, 2017

English and Welsh bishops with Mairéad McGuinness, MEP

At a meeting in Brussels, the bishops of England and Wales have raised the issues of human rights and Northern Ireland, as well as that of European Union (EU) institutions in view of current Brexit negotiations. Their visit to the EU was aimed at deepening links with the Church in Europe.

Bishops from England and Wales met with representatives from EU institutions, including Ireland’s Mairéad McGuinness, MEP, to listen and convey issues of concern at a key time in negotiations for the UK’s exit.

“The UK is still part of the EU and during the transitional period before the UK leaves there are vital issues to resolve. We will also continue to have a relationship with the EU and its institutions in the future so these face-to-face meetings are invaluable,” said Bishop Nicholas Hudson, who has responsibility for European issues.

He led the delegation from the department of international affairs of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, which included Bishop Tom Burns, Bishop Paul McAleenan and Bishop William Kenney.

“Essentially we must always promote the human and insist that the human is put at the centre of the European project and the policies adopted by its institutions, affecting all European citizens. It is important to remember that we will remain part of Europe even when the UK leaves the European Union,” said Bishop Hudson.

As well as meeting with officials and representatives of the various institutions, the delegation heard about the extensive advocacy work undertaken by COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, on behalf of the bishops’ conferences of the EU.

Bishop Hudson said: “This has been a fascinating and informative visit. I must thank Brother Olivier Poquillon and his team at COMECE for their generous reception and also the important role they play.”

The issues raised by the bishops centred on: the upholding of human rights in all trade deals; prisoner transfer rights; Northern Ireland and border issues with the Republic of Ireland; and rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK citizens in European countries.

The delegation also met with the Apostolic Nuncio to the EU Archbishop Alain Lebeaupin, COMECE Vice President Bishop Jean Kockerols, and General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches Fr Heikki Huttunen.

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