Archbishop of Canterbury will vote to remain in EU

Welly conceded that the EU needs “renewed vision [and] major reforms”, but said that the UK must look to the future with the welfare of others in mind.Reuters

The Archbishop of Canterbury will vote for the UK to stay in the EU in this month's referendum, he announced today.

In an article for the Mail on Sunday, Archbishop Justin Welby said he will vote Remain on June 23, though there is "no official Christian or church line on which way to vote. Voting is a matter for each person's conscience."

"In no sense do I have some divine hot line to the right answer. We each have to make up our own minds," Welby added. "But for my part, based on what I have said and on what I have experienced I shall vote to remain."

The Archbishop pointed to principles of "peace and reconciliation, to being builders of bridges, not barriers" that he said are at the "heart of Britain's Christian heritage".

"They are what make the best of our nation, whether we are Christians, of another faith or of no faith. They come from Jesus' teaching, especially in the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes," he said.

"The principles Jesus taught and which have so shaped us also include love for the poor, the alien and the stranger. The EU came together in a Europe broken beyond description by war, and has shaped a continent which until recently has contributed to more human flourishing, and more social care, than at any time in European history.

"Jesus taught us to love our neighbour, and when questioned about what that meant gave the extraordinary story of the Good Samaritan. In that story the one who turns out to be a neighbour is the one who shows respect, mercy and love to the stranger, even to an enemy."

Welby said that the UK must look to the future with the welfare of others in mind.

"We are most human when we exist for others," he said. "This referendum seems to me to be so important because it is about our vision of what kind of country we are, for ourselves and for the world... 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."

He conceded that the EU needs "renewed vision [and] major reforms", but cited concerns for what a Leave vote would mean for the British economy, as well as for other countries.

"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 its lack affects what we can do as a nation, how we are able to care for those in need here and elsewhere."

He also highlighted the issue of immigration; "a major concern for very many people".

"It must be addressed honestly but we must not succumb to our worst instincts," he warned.

Whatever the outcome on June 23, "the Church of England will continue to love and support communities and nations as it always has done, and will seek the greatest human flourishing for all," Welby finished.

"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."