EU referendum: Statement by Archbishops of Canterbury and York
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York John Sentamu have issued this joint statement today after the UK voted to leave the European Union:
On Thursday, millions of people from across the United Kingdom voted in the referendum, and a majority expressed a desire that Britain’s future is to be outside the European Union.
The outcome of this referendum has been determined by the people of this country. It is now the responsibility of the Government, with the support of Parliament, to take full account of the outcome of the referendum, and, in the light of this, decide upon the next steps. This morning, the Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a framework for when this process might formally begin.
The vote to withdraw from the European Union means that now we must all reimagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others.
As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.
The referendum campaign has been vigorous and at times has caused hurt to those on one side or the other. We must therefore act with humility and courage – being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation. Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful. The opportunities and challenges that face us as a nation and as global citizens are too significant for us to settle for less.
As those who hope and trust in the living God, let us pray for all our leaders, especially for Prime Minister David Cameron in his remaining months in office. We also pray for leaders across Europe, and around the world, as they face this dramatic change. Let us pray especially that we may go forward to build a good United Kingdom that, though relating to the rest of Europe in a new way will play its part amongst the nations in the pursuit of the common good throughout the world.
My own feeling about the withdrawal of Britain from the European Community is one of acute disappointment. However, although I retain a U.K. Passport, I am also fortunate enough to hold a New Zealand one – thus able to claim citizenship of two countries. And yet, I have come to realise that the privilege this confers on me does not necessarily give me the right to determine the future of Britain’s relationship with the European Union.
I realise that some people in our world have difficulty in claiming full citizenship rights in any country – especially those refugees for whom life is complicated by the fact that many countries still refuse to accept them as citizens. Population movements can be both a boon and a deprivation – depending on the point of view of both the would-be citizens and the countries called upon to provide hospitality. Therefore, for people like me, who have the legal right to dual citizenship; we must always be tolerant and welcoming of those who wish to share citizenship rights with us.
In the light of this fact, who am I to criticise the right of anyone to seek a homeland in either of my two places of abode.? However, at the same time, the question could be asked; who am I to expect that either of my two ‘homelands’ should have to support immigration from other countries of the world that are overpopulated, unjustly governed or under-resourced? All I can do is pray that everyone will be able to find a place to abide and be nurtured. This is the least that can be expected from me, as a Christian and a believer in the understanding that God resides in every human being born into this world and deserving to flourish.
So, what do I think of this statement made by the 2 leading prelates of the Church of England, in the wake of the decision of the British public to pull out of the European Union? I think that in the circumstances – in which the majority of the British public have made up their mind to withdraw – Archbishops Welby and Sentamu have taken the only path possible to them. The Church of England is still the official State Church and , as such, is bound by government policy. Even the Queen of England, Governor of the Church of England, is legally and constitutionally bound to the decision of her Parliament. As the Referendum which produced this result was governmentally inspired, Her Majesty has no option but to go along with the decision that has been arrived at by democratic means.
How this will affect Church polity has yet to be seen. Whatever political ramifications arise from the assertion of Britain’s independence of the European Union, the mission of the Church will still be needed – if only to ameliorate the effects of anti-immigration policies likely to become part of a new government’s strategy in the wake of severance.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand