Following yesterday’s referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, Bishop Christopher Hill, President of the Conference of European Churches, has issued this statement.
By a narrow margin, the UK Referendum (51.9 per cent voting leave) has recommended to its Parliament that the UK should leave the EU. As President of CEC but also as a bishop of the Church of England, I am proud that my passport, as a British subject, also has European Union as part of its title.
I deeply regret the result and also the manner of the Referendum. This in spite of Church leadership in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland being supportive. There are no doubt real issues to discuss and these issues are not only debated in the UK but in many member states of the EU.
But many of the allegations, especially over migration issues which were decisive in the Referendum, bear no relation to the actual facts and the tone – at least in the UK – has often been hysterical rather than rational, not least amongst “popularist” parties and some sections of the press.
A major task for CEC now, in which the UK Churches remain strong supporting members, will be to contribute to such a rational debate, starting with the already existing dialogue within our member Churches throughout Europe, including those Churches in member states on the southern and eastern borders of the EU.
In addition, CEC can be a space where UK Churches can reassure our partners in the wider Europe that we still believe in the establishment of structures for peace, justice and stability across our one Continent and indeed that such structures serve for global wellbeing as well as our own.
Above all I hope the churches – including our partners in the Catholic Church – will be able to revitalize a vision for Europe much broader than the mere economic, a vision informed by a Christian understanding of society which looks to the common good of all, supporting human rights and inclusive communities without collapsing into purely individualistic demands, and understands (from the inside of faith) the need for dialogue between faiths and all people of good will.
Now that the high profile campaign is over, I look for this serious discourse as urgent for the future of Europe as well as the UK.