Archbishop of York: 'My conscience tells me I must vote Remain'

The Archbishop of York has said his conscience tells him to vote in favour of staying in the European Union.

John Sentamu has previously said he has not seen a "cogent argument for Brexit", but he officially announced his support for Remain in an article for the Telegraph on Thursday. The second most senior Anglican figure in the UK said Britain's historic commitment to European countries obliged him to vote Remain.

Archbishop John Sentamu is the most senior Anglican to announce his support for Remain.Reuters

"If we deny that history and undertakings already made within it, we deny our connection with what our predecessors have done, which means denying our own national identity," he wrote.

Sentamu admitted there was strength in the Brexit argument but said "not all decisions should be made purely on the basis of 'What's in it for us?'".

He wrote: "Economically, it's possible that Britain can survive outside the European Union. But where would be our self-respect and sense of identity with history? And why would other nations wish to make other agreements with a nation whose word is no longer its bond?"

The archbishop did not offer an overwheming endorsement of the EU but rather quoted Psalm 15.46's blessing for one who "stands by his oath even to his hurt" to argue that Britain should remain in the EU even to its detriment because of past treaties and promises.

He urged voters to "stick to the rule book [even] when one disagrees with others' decisions". Moral responsibilities "must never give away to pragmatism", he wrote.

The Archbishop's commitment to the EU comes after the Church of Scotland officially backed Remain and Catholic bishops in Northern Ireland told voters the EU was inspired by "gospel values".

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been repeatedly asked for his position on the referendum but has declined to comment. He faced intensive questioning from MPs on the home affairs select committee on Tuesday but avoided revealing his views. He has previously said there was not one Christian view on it.

On Wednesday the deadline for voter registration was extended until 11.59pm on Thursday after the government website crashed before the previous cut-off, preventing thousands from registering to vote.