Archbishop of Canterbury will vote to stay in EU


The Archbishop of Canterbury has thrown his weight behind the campaign to remain in the EU, saying Britain should be "a country for the world".

Warning against "succumbing to our worst instincts" over immigration, the Most Rev Justin Welby said he would vote to stay in on June 23 to avert economic damage that could harm the poorest.

The head of the Church of England, writing in the Mail on Sunday, said he had no "divine hotline" and that he expected to receive abuse for taking a position in the fraught national debate.

But he said "a vision of peace and reconciliation, of being builders of bridges, not barriers" was one of the principles at the heart of the country's Christian heritage.

"It is not said with the desire to tell others how to vote," he wrote.

"In no sense do I have some divine hotline to the right answer. We each have to make up our own minds.

"But for my part, based on what I have said and on what I have experienced I shall vote to remain.

"I hope and pray that the result will be reached with the aim of a good Britain in a good Europe, whether as part of the EU or not. I pray that each person's vote will be based on generosity, hope, confidence.

"I pray that we will then reunite with immense determination to be a gift to the world of today and to future generations.

The cleric has clashed publicly with Nigel Farage over what he says are the Ukip leader's deliberate attempts to stir up racism - leading the politician to call him a "bad archbishop" who "turned a blind eye" to threats from migrants.

In his article, Mr Welby recognised the issue was "a major concern for very many people" that had to be addressed.

"But we must not succumb to our worst instincts. The language in the campaign has been very blunt, but this is the question of a generation, and merits passionate campaigning."

He insisted he had "huge respect for politicians on both sides as they seek to put their case, a case in which they genuinely believe, and which they know matters hugely".

The EU "needs renewed vision; major reforms", he conceded, but remained in part responsible for the maintenance of peace on the continent since 1945 which was "the greatest cause for thankfulness that we can imagine".

He said it "seems likely that the most probable economic effect of leav­ing would be negative in the short to medium term".

"Prosperity should not be the final aim for us, but the lack of it affects what we can do as a nation, how we are able to care for those in need here and elsewhere.".

He added: "To be a country for the world is part of the calling of being British.

"Economics are massively important, so is migration, but they are not every­thing, although they are the signs of the values we have."

In an apparent swipe at efforts by both camps to draw on the inspiration of those who fought in the Second World War, he said "no-one can conscript them to one side or the other".

"How those who fought would vote in the referendum is unknowable, and likely to be as varied as how people today will vote," he argued.

In a plea for post-poll unity, he wrote: "There is no official Chris­tian or Church line on which way to vote. Voting is a matter for each person's conscience.

"Two things are sure. Each of us should turn out and vote if we can. And after the referendum we must come together as one people to make the solution we choose work well.

"Hard words (and I expect even this article may cause me to receive those) must not create enduring bitterness. Those who have led both sides have done so with courage and determination."