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Reactions to Brexit

Reactions to Brexit

[updated] Voters in the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union in a referendum yesterday. Here is a round-up of reactions from around the Church.

From the Archbishops of Canterbury and York:

On Thursday, millions of people from across the United Kingdom voted in the Referendum, and a majority expressed a desire that Britain’s future is to be outside the European Union

The outcome of this referendum has been determined by the people of this country. It is now the responsibility of the Government, with the support of Parliament, to take full account of the outcome of the referendum, and, in the light of this, decide upon the next steps. This morning, the Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a framework for when this process might formally begin.

The vote to withdraw from the European Union means that now we must all reimagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others.

As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.

From Bishop Robert Innes, the Church of England’s Bishop of Europe:

Of course, I have particular concerns for the people of my diocese, many of whom are British ex-patriots living on the European continent. They will be worried about health care, employment rights and pensions in the coming months and years. For the present, we don’t know the precise implications of the vote. I do plead that both British and EU diplomats will take heed to the situation of those living oversees (whether in Britain or on the continent), who will be feeling especially vulnerable at the moment.

People in Britain have expressed their discontent with the structures of the EU. Actually, these discontents are widely shared by other Europeans. I hope that EU leaders and officials are able to bring about the reform to European political structures that is needed for these structures to endure. And I pray that they do endure. Because they were constructed to serve the cause of peace and reconciliation after the two terrible world wars. The task of reconciliation is never done, and I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy the kind of European peace which my generation has known.

In the meantime, I continue my own work of pastoring our European diocese, sharing the good news of Jesus and encouraging people in their faith. I pray for the future of the United Kingdom and of our European continent. I long for our continent to be a place of faith, of hope and of neighbourly care, with political institutions that serve the cause of justice, peace and prosperity.

The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin and Bishop of Glendalough, and Primate of the Southern Province of the Church of Ireland:

At this time of considerable uncertainty for the people of Ireland following the outcome of the referendum on continuing EU membership in the United Kingdom, our hopes and prayers are for stability and clarity in finding the best path forward.

Many people in Ireland fear the impact that this momentous decision will have on their lives in ways that are still incalculable and unknown. We pray for wisdom and foresight on the part of those who lead us politically, socially and economically and for those who will negotiate on our behalf on how best to express and fulfil our role in Ireland within the European Union.

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane:

The decision of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is one of the most significant political events of our generation. It turns away from the long term project of building a new Europe following the devastation of two World Wars. It aspires to reclaim national sovereignty and to establish Britain as a major independent world trading nation.

The people have spoken and the will of the people must be respected.

In a hard-fought and at times bruising campaign, it has been clear that debate about Europe has allowed a number of difficult issues to come to the surface. The debate and the patterns of voting suggest that our politicians in recent years may not have paid sufficient attention to some of the deeper issues which are present in our life. The inevitable and necessary period of reflection which must now follow will allow space for questions of poverty and immigration to be explored.

Those of us who live in Scotland are aware that the outcome of the Referendum is potentially of great significance. We hope that our politicians on all sides will take time for careful reflection and consultation.

This a time when we should hold all of our political leaders in our prayers.

The Bishops of the Church in Wales:

In facing the outcome of the EU referendum, we commend a period of calm and reflection as the UK seeks to find its way forward in this new situation.

As Christians we hold to the Gospel values of truthfulness, inclusion, and respect; and so after the passionate debate, we pray for reconciliation amongst the divided factions in our nations, communities and families.

We pray for the United Kingdom and for our partners in Europe and the rest of the world at this time of uncertainty, as we continue to work together to build a just and peaceful future in which all people can flourish.

Bishop David Hamid, Suffran Bishop of the Diocese on Europe writes on the blog Eurobishop:

Our clergy and lay leaders will no doubt be asked for explanations by our sister and brother Christians and our European neighbours among whom we live. We will wish to reassure them that the UK referendum result is not a rejection of them, their nations, cultures, gifts, hospitality and generosity. It was a political decision and certainly not an ecclesial one. Now we will need to redouble our efforts to demonstrate our commitment to the common good, rejecting narrow nationalism and selfish individualism. Our alliances, covenants, commitments and unity agreements with sister European Churches will be all the more important now so that we can demonstrate our solidarity and communion as Christians together on the continent. For as Christians we are committed to the unity of all people.

With great shame the UK may have initiated a possible domino effect in the EU in general, fragile as it is in these days, as right wing parties may now feel inspired to seek a similar path to the UK decision. (Indeed the beginning of the dismantling of the EU itself is what Mr Nigel Farage himself has expressly wished). But we will want make clear to our neighbours and friends that such a wish is very far indeed from the position of UK folk who live in other EU countries, who find there a welcoming home.

The Church of England is a European Church. St Alban our first martyr was a Roman soldier. Our first Archbishop of Canterbury, St Augustine, was from Italy, The list of our Archbishops includes such luminaries as St Theodore of Tarsus, St Anselm, Lanfranc, and even more recently Rowan Williams, all Europeans from outside England. The Church of England is a member of the Conference of European Churches, and indeed a Church of England Bishop, Christopher Hill, is its President. Our liturgy, tradition, canon law and schools of prayer and spirituality are rooted in the Latin tradition of the Western European Church. Even the Reformation which coloured our own development was a European phenomenon. All this will not change as a result of 23 June, but remain our precious shared gifts with other European Christians, our common heritage, and an inheritance which unites us.


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Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed the Church of England Bishop in Europe. He is Bishop Robert Innes. –atg


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Prof Christopher Seitz

As is being noted it is far from clear that Scotland would be a bona fide candidate for EU membership.

Daniel Lamont

That is true and I didn’t suggest that Scotland would be. However, there are reports today that some ministers in EU countries have made encouraging noises about retaining links with Scotland post-Brexit. What I am sure of is that the independence question has not gone away. Many people whom I have spoken to who voted against independence last time now say that they would vote in favour. Anecdotal evidence I know but a straw in the wind. People are very distressed and angry. The SEC’s independent stance on a number of issues is illustrative of the Scots unwillingness to be steamrollered by England and Westminster/Canterbury.

Prof. Christopher Seitz

If you enter a pub in Scotland and England is playing football the locals will always root for the opposition v the three lions.

This dynamic is fully in play, and we shall need to see what the realistic outcome is. The main debate now is the timing of Article 50, with EU wanting it now and Britain wanting it later.

Alan Christensen

Maybe after they “take their country back” from England.

“When the Chunnel between England and France opened, an English woman said to me, very seriously, I’ve barely gotten use to the Welsh. I don’t think I’ll ever accept the French.” Just give it another 1500 years.

Daniel Lamont

What hasn’t been mentioned here so far is that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted as a whole to remain in the EU. Brexit could well dangerouly undermine the hard won stabiity in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, 62% of those voting wanted to remain within the UK. The issue of Scottish independence and how Scotland might retain links with the UK is now very much to the forefront of people’s thinking. Writing from Edinburgh, I can see that the end of the Union (as in the United Kingdom) is likely to happen within in five years. I commend to you the most recent two entries in Kelvin Holdsworth’s Blog found here and Michael Sadgrove’s blog here The former is the Provost of Glasgow Episcopal Cathedral and the latter is the former Dean of Durham

Philip B. Spivey

“However dysfunctional the family, going it alone these days seems like a recipe for many cold days and nights.”

I’m not sure any nation can survive today without strong economic alliances. I say fix the alliance and spare the rod.

Not unlike the Anglican Communion, a rupture of this kind portends a global rush to national exceptionalism and everything that brings with it. A return to the Dark Ages, anyone?

Dr. William A Flint, MDiv, PhD

The older people voted to take their country back. These are the people who fought WWI and WWII, who endured the bombing of London by the Nazis, who gave everything to keep the United Kingdom safe. Good for them and if the kids don’t like it, let them move to a EU country. In November, Americans will vote to take their country back as well.

Cynthia Katsarelis

William, I’m in England, where we live part-time. I’m afraid you are mis-reading the situation. It seems that the people voting Leave were a diverse bunch working through complicated and conflicting issues. The Tories and Labour parties were each divided 50-50. This was most certainly not a vote against progressivism!

One of the major reasons many voted Leave was to protect their beloved NHS – the most progressive institution in the UK.

Another example, one of the key issues was the EU’s stance on imposing economic austerity – a stand imposed essentially by bureaucrats and Germany (thus also exposing another issue, lack of democratic processes in the EU as well as German hegemony). British liberals tend to be Keynesians, and many were appalled by the EU’s treatment of Greece. Many rightly see that globalization has helped bring about the demise of labor unions, and that the “free market” has suppressed wages. Many people voting Leave were also angry about big banks and inequality – the kinds of issues Bernie Sanders champions.

So there were an array of issues that caused some Progressives to vote Leave. And you could not possibly be more wrong in framing Brexit as a blow to progressivism. If anything, this was a marriage of extreme progressives and extreme conservatives.

The “take back England” crowd, like the assassin who murdered MP Jo Cox, do tend to resemble Trump supporters. Those people tend to vote UKIP, which won 17 percent of the vote in the most recent election. It is openly racist.

Most of all, this was a revolt by the working class because they have been ill served by pre-war empire, post-war globalization, and I suspect they will now be ill served by “independence.”

I could go on, but those are the major points being discussed here, as you can imagine. And you have seriously got it wrong if you think it supports conservativism as we know it the US.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Hm. My grandfather fought in WWI and died in 1948. My dad fought in WWII and died in 2008 at the age of 93. The older people who voted were beneficiaries of the victory and the social programs that followed. I saw major problems with the EU, but I don’t see that the working class people are going to get a better deal now. I hope for the best.

Rod Gillis

“These are the people who fought … WWII, who endured the bombing of London by the Nazis…” How many 90+ year old voters do you think voted in the Brexit referendum?

Interesting, though, that the two countries that triggered the war in Iraq, Blair’s UK and Bush’s USA, a war that created ISIS and the consequent refugee crisis, are now the most vehement xenophobic and Islamophobic western countries. Some folks just don’t want to reap what they sow I reckon.

Trump was his usual clown self in Scotland after the vote with his remarks that the vote meant that, ” they have taken their country back”. Scotland voted to stay in the EU. The guy is clueless. He was mocked mercilessly on social media in Scotland for his clueless blurting.

Rod Gillis

As one corespondent of mine suggested yesterday, now may be a good time to read/re-read John Ralston Saul’s, Voltaire’s Bastards.

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