The world will be watching when the UK votes on whether to stay in the EU later this month. Interventions by President Obama and the heads of the US Federal Reserve and International Monetary Fund, among others, prove this has become a global story. The result will have ramifications for immigration, trade and security beyond Europe’s shores.
Anglican clergy across the continent are watching the whirlwind of claim and counter-claim about the impact of a vote to leave. Several chaplains in the Diocese of Europe have been giving ACNS their perspective.
Revd Ben Harding, from Lyon Anglican Church in France, urged voters to get involved.
“Be a part of the decision. Pray it through – weight it up,” he said. “I’d hope that Christians on the 24th of June can say ‘I have contributed to this decision, having prayed about it, having inquired about it and I have given a good account of my vote’.”
Revd John Chapman, from St George’s in Barcelona, said people needed to think longer term and weigh their decisions in that light. His wife, Dr Debbie Chapman, agreed.
“It’s a good idea to listen to those who will have to live with the consequences ... and not just to listen to ourselves,” she said.
The Chapmans said there was considerable interest in the debate in Barcelona as there had been in the Scottish referendum in 2014. But Revd Chapman said the people of Spain really could not understand why the UK would want to be separate.
In the Netherlands, the chaplain of St James’ Voorschoten, Revd Ruan Crew, said there was some sympathy among the Dutch for British people who felt the EU had become too bureaucratic and too powerful. But he said that attitude was tempered with pragmatism.
“I would say to people don’t follow the fear agenda,” he said. “Listen to people who have experience of the front line. Part of the defining vision was peace. The Dutch have memories of bombing, invasion and occupation. Nations that trade don’t fight.”
The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Rt Revd Robert Innes said in February it would be sad if the UK voted to leave. Last week he told the Church Times that leaving would affect the Church of England’s status and influence within Europe. But he added that there would be a bigger emotional impact – walking away would feel like a divorce which would be met with shock, disbelief and anger.
Counting will begin when the polls close at 10pm BST on June 23. It’s thought the outcome should be clear by 4am on June 24. A chief counting officer will formally announce the result at Manchester Town Hall.