Archbishop apologises after saying people need to stop 'whingeing' about Brexit

The Archbishop of Canterbury said his comments had been "carelessly and insensitively" expressedReuters

The Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised after saying during a Q&A at the Greenbelt festival that people need to "stop whingeing" about the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum. 

"Clearly, I expressed myself carelessly and insensitively in the moment. I apologise for that and the hurt that people have felt. Christians are expected by the Bible to 'walk in the light' – to admit when they go wrong," he said in a statement. 

He sought to clarify that his intention had been to encourage people to move on from regret over the outcome and focus instead on ways to unite the country. 

"What I was aiming to say was that in this political situation, just talking in increasingly hostile language does us no good. Nor is it helpful to only look backwards," he said.

"What has happened is past, and every Christian, every citizen, from every side of the debate, should be aiming for reconciliation and working to reunite our country." 

He said that while he voted Remain, he was "not seeking to shape other people's votes" and that he continued to believe that the result of the referendum should be honoured.

He qualified that statement by speaking candidly about his fears over a no-deal Brexit and going as far as to say that crashing out of the EU without an agreement in place would not be honouring of the referendum result. 

"I have also been clear in saying that a No Deal Brexit, if it impacted most seriously on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, would be a moral failure," he said.

"It would be as serious as not honouring the referendum itself.

"I remain concerned about the risks of No Deal Brexit for the people least able to bear them. These risks may or may not turn out to be reality, but we must be very sure that those who need protection are protected." 

His apology, shared on Facebook, went down well with members of the public, many of whom thanked him for having the good grace to apologise. 

"Thank you for reassessing your words and committing to finding a better conversation about Brexit," said one comment left beneath the post. 

Another read: "What a generous example to us all that we all err. It is easy to see in our own lives examples of this and I wish I could muster the grace you have shown in apology and prayerfulness." 

In his statement, the Archbishop went on to say that there was a need for "robust disagreement" but also for "better language" to help the nation move beyond "bitterness". 

"There is no single Christian view of these matters. We all hold our different political beliefs and ideas within the love Christ calls us to have for each other, even our political opponents. We will disagree passionately about politics, and robust disagreement is essential," he said. 

"In that disagreement we must find better language (me included) that helps us remove the bitterness and prioritise each other's dignity and humanity. What is clear is that, no matter the outcome of the Brexit process, bullying one another, misrepresenting the situation, and disparaging each other's convictions and genuinely held views only leaves us all weaker." 

He concluded with a call to pray for society and for the nation's leaders, irrespective of their views on Brexit. 

"I pray we might find a way to debate and discuss that is distinguished by compassionate listening and disagreeing well, as we work together towards a society where everybody can flourish, economically, emotionally and spiritually," he said.

"Politicians bear the brunt of this daily. Let us continue to pray for them, whether we agree or not, for wisdom and strength."