Church of England bishops called for respect on all sides of the Brexit argument on Friday, saying the language being used in an increasingly vitriolic debate was divisive and abusive.
“We should speak to others with respect. And we should also listen,” the bishops said. “In the last few days, the use of language, both in debates and outside Parliament, has been unacceptable.”
Parliament has been at boiling point since it resumed on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his opponents engaged in hours of furious argument over Britain’s departure from the European Union.
MPs were called back to the debating chamber after the Supreme Court ruled Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament was unlawful.
The prime minister has goaded opponents either to bring down the government or get out of the way to allow him to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31.
He repeatedly called a law that forces him to ask the EU to delay Brexit unless he strikes a withdrawal deal next month the “Surrender Bill”.
His critics have said such language has led to threats and abuse against his opponents.
The bishops, who reaffirmed their respect for the 2016 referendum and their belief it should be honoured, also said they were concerned about the structure and constitution of the United Kingdom.
“It is easy to descend into division and abuse – climbing out and finding unity again takes far longer,” they said.
“Further entrenching our divisions, whether from uncertainty or from partisanship, is not worthy of our country nor the leadership we now need.”