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New PM warned no-deal Brexit would be 'huge gamble' for poorest communities

By Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor

Leaving the European Union (EU) without an exit deal would "put at risk the welfare and safety of the poorest communities in the UK", church leaders from across the country have warned Boris Johnson.

Senior figures from seven Christian denominations said they were "compelled" to write to the new prime minister to set out why they believe a no-deal Brexit would be a "huge gamble to take with the basic needs of our poorest citizens and communities".

They told him the UK currently imports 10,000 shipping containers of food from the EU each day, warning of the impact of increasing food bills amidst "crippling" trade disruption.

The letter, from the leaders of the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Unions of Great Britain, Scotland and Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Salvation Army, Quakers in Britain and the Scottish Episcopal Church, said this would hit those already "held back by poverty very hard indeed".

With the new PM taking over from Theresa May, they told him: "At a time when increasing numbers of families have difficulties putting enough food on the table, we believe it is irresponsible to consider a course of action that is expected to make that situation worse."

The faith leaders, who include the Reverend Dr Richard Frazer, the convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, and the Most Reverend Mark Strange, the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, insisted: "The impacts of a no-deal Brexit are at best highly uncertain, and at worst deeply worrying.

"Our view that it would put at risk the welfare and safety of the poorest communities in the UK is formed on the basis of the best available evidence, including our presence in local communities in every part of the UK."

They called on Mr Johnson to visit "one of our many projects" working with poorer families "to hear from those who a no-deal Brexit may most impact".

They also called for his government to "urgently" publish current evidence on the impact of a no-deal Brexit on disadvantaged communities across the UK.

They spoke out as SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Brexit was already making families worse off, with people already "poorer to the tune of about £900 per family as a consequence of Brexit over the last two years".

Leaving the EU without a deal would be the "height of irresponsibility", he insisted.

The SNP MP told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that in the event of no-deal "there is a very clear position that the UK runs the risk of heading into a recession, there's going to be lost opportunity for economic growth, people are going to lose their jobs".

Mr Blackford added: "The Government has talked about the threat to food supplies, the supply of medicines, they've even talked about a threat to water supply. This is pretty serious stuff.

"The simple fact is if there is a no-deal Brexit we're all going to pay a price."

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