Cardinal Vincent Nichols: Brexit would cause 'complex problems'

Britain's most senior Catholic figure has backed the EU Remain campaign.

In the most significant intervention to date by British faith leader, the Archbishop of Westminster said Britain should not leave the European Union.

He went further than a recent statement where the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales did not take sides but did urge voters to remember the debate is "about much more than economics".

Cardinal Nichols, spiritual leader of the four million Catholics of England and Wales and president of the conference, warned the path to division "almost inevitably leads to further division".

He said: "There is a long tradition in Christianity and Catholicism in particular of believing in holding things together. So the Catholic stance towards an effort such as the EU is largely supportive.

"If the vote was to leave Europe I think we would face more complex problems and greater difficulty in finding our role in response to it than we would by playing an active and vigorous part with partners within the EU."

The Cardinal acknowledged his remarks "basically answer" the question of which way he will vote on 23 June.

His comments set him apart from the Archbishop of Canterbury who has avoided answering the question directly. Justin Welby has said there was no particular "correct Christian view" on the question.

The Church of England and the Church of Scotland have set up a blog to discuss the issue but it does not take a stance.

Dr Angus Morrison, moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, is more outspoken.

He has said the EU symbolises "real progress and hope" for the future. The Church of Scotland has an official position that Scotland should remain within the EU.

Cardinal Nichols gave his views as he reported back on the bishops' spring meeting. He said the bishops had had a "spirited debate" over the EU. The statement issued as bishops "might not be the same as what we would say as citizens".