Archbishops of Canterbury and York respond to referendum with call for 'unity, hope and generosity'

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have called for "unity, hope and generosity" as the UK awoke to find it had voted to leave the European Union.

The two most senior leaders of the Anglican Church had both openly backed the case for remaining in the EU with the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, saying he could not see a cogent case to leave.

The Archbishop of York (left) has been especially critical of the Brexit vote and both him and the Archbishop of Canterbury (right) said they would vote remain.Reuters

But in the aftermath of the vote to leave, Justin Welby and Sentamu said the UK must now unite in the "common task to build a generous and forward looking country".

They said: "We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers." They said that many from overseas will feel a "deep sense of insecurity" and called on people to "respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one".

The vote means the UK must "reimagine" what it means to be British and also the values it uses to engage with others around the world, the Archbishops said.

"Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful."

Shortly before the Archbishops' statement was released, Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would resign before the Conservative party conference in October. He choked back tears as he said "the country requires fresh leadership" to take it in its new direction.

Welby and Sentamu called for prayers "especially" for Cameron in his last few months in office as well as other leaders around the world in light of the 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."

You can read the full statement on our live blog here (scroll down to 9.40am).