welby brexit bishops
European Union

Welby: Brexit offers ‘a wide and liberal future’; Remainers are ‘depressed’ and ‘paranoid’

When it transpired that the reason Chris Heaton-Harris MP had written to all university vice-chancellors asking for the names of academics lecturing on Brexit was simply because he was writing a book, it seemed a reasonable stratagem to discover what our bishops have been preaching on the matter. So, with the dorsum of tongue firmly in cheek and wink in the eye (which some may call a plank), the tweet went out.

And all the Bishop naturally ignored it.

Except one.

Arguably the busiest one of them all.

Justin Welby was a devout Remainer. In his heart he may still be, of course, but he is certainly no Remoaner. “I accept we voted leave and I will be supporting the Brexit Bill in the House of Lords,” he told LBC earlier in the year. The people have decided that the UK is leaving the EU, and that, he avers, is precisely what we must now do.

In response to the tweet, Lambeth Palace sent over six lectures and addresses where he touches on Brexit, and while there is a tinge of regret in his tone and an acute awareness of a myriad of complex questions to fathom, there is no doubt about his conversion.

No, not conversion; that’s too much of a jolt. There’s no doubt about his resignation, yes, that’s the word. “I weighed it up very carefully at the time. Maybe I got it wrong, you might well be right, and If I did, I apologise,” he told Judith from Whitstable, who reportedly left the Church of England over the Archbishop’s (/s’) Remain fervour.

So Justin Welby is now resolved (that’s an even better word) for Brexit. In his address on a future vision for Europe, delivered at the Catholic Institute of Paris, he said:

To view the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union as a raising of the drawbridge from all of our relationships with the European continent is something that none of us can afford. A vision for Europe must go beyond the boundaries of the European Union.

…Whatever our perspectives on the rights or wrongs of the decision, the role of political leaders, from both sides of the English Channel, must be to ensure that both parties can thrive in the new reality and that the pursuit of the common good remains at the heart of the process.

In his 1st Holy Week Lecture of 2017 he referred to some Brexiteers as being “like Doctor Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide, all will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds”. Optimism, of course, isn’t a sin. But he was positively damning of Remoaners:

Others, on the remain side, are apocalyptic in their forecasts. They foresee the Four Horsemen of the Book of Revelation (death, hunger, war and conquest), or at the least the UK economy becoming like that of Greece, with massive rises in unemployment, a sharp fall in the value of the pound, consequent high inflation, the country turning in on itself and succumbing to extremism and xenophobia. They argue that the negotiators for the European Union, and after them the individual states and the European Parliament, have no incentive to negotiate a good deal for the UK, as although the UK is a trading partner of importance for the block, for each country it is less essential. They think that the Union will need to punish the UK to deter subsequent attempts to leave. They think the time for negotiation wildly inadequate and thus the chance of a hard Brexit high. They foresee years without good trade arrangements, a country ill prepared to stand on its own outside the European Union and little interest from those with whom we hope to trade. They forecast government utterly absorbed in negotiation and Parliament occupied for years in consequent legislation. If those wildly in favour sometimes seem to resemble Dr Pangloss, those most against risk giving the impression of channelling the depressed robot, Marvin, the Paranoid Android, in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

He goes on to articulate Brexit as a significant moment of change, of the sort which offers “great hope and opportunity”. Yes, he said Brexit offers hope (he even quotes Edmund Burke [whenever does a CofE bishop do that?]). In his 2nd Holy Week Lecture, he lauds subsidiarity (to which the EU has become antithetical, despite enshrining the principle in the Maastricht Treaty):

The principal (sic) is simple. All actions and decisions in any group or organisation should be taken at the lowest possible level, at the most local level. It sounds obvious, but everything militates against it…

..Subsidiarity is challenging and frightening because it assumes that there will be failures, while claiming that local responsibilities, and local knowledge will be more important in resisting oppression, misjudgement and cruelty than central systems.

The results are usually messy, often inefficient, but they give a deep sense of local responsibility to those who have to make things happen. They do not always prevent trouble, and in some areas they have failed, most seriously and most tragically in the prevention of the abuse of children and vulnerable adults. The Church of England – believe it or not – a model of subsidiarity. It is not based in a few people at the ‘top’, whatever that means (it is a concept disliked by Jesus to start with and most of the best leaders since) but on the 8,000 and more local parishes, chaplaincies, groups, who will continue doing what they do pretty well regardless of what happens or what is said at some self-imagined grand central level of decision making. But we are genuinely a picture of subsidiarity and God forbid that we should give up on it because it’s untidy.

In his 3rd Holy Week Lecture, he rails against centralisation and the abuse of power:

It is easy to make the case that power groups are what control our lives – and to some extent it’s underpinned the case made by those advocating Brexit, by the so-called populist movements across Europe, and by President Trump during his campaign in 2015-2016. Expressions such as ‘drain the swamp’ – referring to the lobbyist dominated political culture of Washington DC – and similar attacks on lobbying in Brussels and other EU centres, play on a suspicion that the system was rigged. Power and wealth and security could only be acquired by underhand means, by being in the loop and at the centre. There was no sense of justice, fairness and equal opportunity. And thus the Brexit campaign focussed, apart from immigration, on returning power to the UK.

Curiously, he suggests that such a process of subsidiarity is “an illusion – to a large degree”, because “(t)he moment you think you’ve hit on the inner circle you discover there’s an even more inner-circle that you didn’t know about”. Yet he observed in his Paris lecture that it is certainly no illusion for the Greeks, who are victims of “collusion” having been sold a “false prospectus” through “corruption by an elite”. Why is the desire for currency sovereignty an “illusion”?

His Brexit resolve returned for his February Address to Synod: “Whether one was a supporter of Brexit or of remain, there is now a wide and liberal choice of future for this country.” So Brexit doesn’t only offer hope, but a wide and liberal choice: the United Kingdom can once again shine its light into the whole world, which is what Theresa May has determined that her government will do (if it lasts long enough). The Archbishop proclaimed in nigh-Panglossian terms:

This is a moment to reimagine Britain, a moment of potential opportunity, certainly combined with immensely hard work and heavy lifting. It is a moment of challenge, but challenge that as a nation can be overcome with the right practices, values, culture and spirit. This could be a time of liberation, of seizing and defining the future, or it could be one in which the present problems seize our national future and define us.

Gosh, he sounds just like a Brexiteer – a possibility he tantalisingly boosts with a speech to the House of Lords:

The renewal of the values that will enable us to flourish in the post-Brexit world are not simply about us as individuals or the state as the arbiter of what is considered virtuous; but also require a renewal of intermediate institutions; because otherwise nothing stands between the lonely individual and the over-mighty state. As the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government recently said: Government “can build …homes… but alone can’t build communities… a sense of belonging or force people to love thy neighbour as thyself.”

..We need a narrative that speaks to the world of bright hope and not mere optimism — let alone simple self-interest. That will enable us to play a powerful, hopeful and confident role in the world, resisting the turn inward that will leave us alone in the darkness, despairing and vulnerable.

..Such a vision has a deep magic that has, at our best, enabled us to be a country of hope and purpose — and will do so again.

Was that a purposeful echo of Pitt the Younger – “England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example”? If not, it seems a sound allusion to finish on, for Justin Welby has evidently become an advocate of genuine European subsidiarity and a defender of hard Brexit, or clean Brexit, or pure Brexit, or real Brexit. Deo gratias.

  • Dolphinfish

    England?

    • Ray Sunshine

      Why not? The Church of England is what he’s the primate of.

  • Tregonsee

    As an American, albeit one whose late mother was Welsh, I don’t have a dog in this fight but do follow it carefully. I almost spilled my tea to read something so sensible from ++Cantuar.

    • Chefofsinners

      Tea? There will be some tax owing on that.

  • Dodgy Geezer

    ….Maybe I got it wrong, you might well be right, and If I did, I apologise,” he told Judith from Whitstable…

    Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. Time will tell.

    But why on earth apologise? When I got my sums wrong at school, I saw no need to apologise. He has come to his conclusion, as we all do – and as happens to all of us, it is possible that he may be wrong. Is this a new social trend – if you make a wrong decision, to apologise to everyone who got it right?

    Should I apologise for not understanding post-modernism? If so, who to? Because I can’t see anyone who’s getting it right…..

    • Anton

      He’s studying apologetics.

      • Father David

        One would sincerely hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury is indeed an “expert in apologetics” i.e. the defense of the Christian Faith.

      • Dominic Stockford

        Apologytics.

      • Dodgy Geezer

        I’m actually apoplectic….

  • Manfarang

    Britain is officially the worst performing major economy on earth right now.

    • Anton

      So now it’s your turn to open the champagne this week, after the protestants and the zionists?

      Who has authority to determine what is Official in the realm of economic statistics that? How is Major defined? How is Worst defined?

      • Manfarang

        Ok so Britain is doing a little better than Brazil according to these figures.
        G20 GDP Growth – Second quarter of 2017, OECD
        Growth picked up strongly in Turkey, to 2.1% (as compared with 1.3% in the first quarter of 2017), the highest quarterly growth among G20 economies. Real GDP also
        increased significantly in China (by 1.7%, compared with 1.3% in the previous quarter), South Africa (by 0.6%, following a contraction of 0.1%) and in Australia and the United States (by 0.8%, compared with 0.3% in the previous quarter). Growth also picked up, although to a lesser extent, in India (to 1.4%, from 1.3%), Canada (to 1.1%, from 0.9%), Japan (to 0.6%, from 0.3%), and the United Kingdom (to 0.3%, from 0.2%).
        Growth remained stable in Indonesia (1.2%), France (0.5%) and Italy (0.4%), while it slowed markedly in Brazil (to 0.2%, from 1.0%) and Korea (to 0.6%, from 1.1%). Growth also weakened in Germany and Mexico (to 0.6%, from 0.7%).
        Year-on-year GDP growth for the G20 area increased to 3.6% in the second quarter of 2017 (from 3.4% in the previous quarter), with China (6.9%) and Turkey (6.1%) recording the highest growth rates and Brazil the lowest rate (0.2%).
        No champagne as few savers will benefit from the Bank of England interest rise.

        • Inspector General

          Manfarang. This Inspector welcomes a modest growth rate. A high one apparently means we must flood the country with foreigners to do new jobs created, while not taking any account of the immense strain placed on services such as education, the NHS, housing, transport, police, waste management, electrical generation, sewerage, food production, old age care, prisons, etc. And when that high growth stalls, as it will – it always does, we will no doubt be stuck with those people doing nothing but drawing benefits (with some of their benefits sent to dependants living abroad by our helpful government. Such is the mad-hattery of the EU).

          Get the picture, old chap? Justin Welby does now.

          Yes, indeedy. Let’s have low growth, and appreciate what we have. NOT the aforementioned nightmare as we chase our tail like some demented dog…

          • Dominic Stockford

            No actual requirement for any growth whatsoever, unless you worship money…..

          • Manfarang

            In years past in Ireland many had to emigrate because of a weak economy.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Which proves nothing. They had famine, not a stable economy. Growth is not necessary unless you worship money.

          • Manfarang

            In the first decade of the last century Ireland enjoyed a higher standard of living than Norway or Switzerland. In fact republicanism was being to fade. The Easter rebellion was in fact a last desperate fling. Independence didn’t bring prosperity.
            Those countries that have absolute poverty very much need economic growth. Try living without electricity or running water.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Electricity and running water are not tied to economic growth. A nation, such as Nigeria, where some areas have these and some don’t doesn’t need economic growth for their spread, but simply a bit more will to spread them.

          • Manfarang

            Infrastructure-roads, railways, power stations , schools, and hospitals require funding. An industrial estate most definitely requires a reliable electricity and water supply.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Modern nations have plenty of funding, they choose to spend it on other things, like guns and fighter jets.

          • Manfarang

            Not many fighter jets in Laos, just a few transport aircraft. The Chinese are building some infrastructure there as they are in many African countries. These countries don’t have funding to finance development projects out of their own resources.

          • Manfarang

            I shall be writing to Justin Welby so he gets the picture.
            Economic growth in East Asia has lifted millions out of poverty. Mass unemployment in the UK is unacceptable.

          • Anton

            It is because Doing Nothing is now a paid occupation thanks to the Welfare State.

          • Manfarang

            The areas with high unemployment are those of industrial decline. The inability to establish new industry doesn’t augur well.

          • Anton

            You won’t find heavy industry replaced by heavy industry. That’s outsourced to parts of the world where labour is cheaper today.

          • Manfarang

            Such as ship building
            http://gcaptain.com/japan-overtakes-south-korea-in-shipbuilding/
            Japan is No.2 when it comes to steel making. Germany No.7

        • not a machine

          I am still digesting article that considers cashless society a wheeze cooked up by banks.

          • Anton

            Of course it is. That way they can enact negative interest rates aka tax on savings and we cannot avoid it by stashing cash under the mattress. In summer 2016 the influential economist Ken Rogoff published a book called The Curse of Cash. On 18th September 2015 the Bank of England’s Chief Economist, Andrew Haldane, publicly suggested abolishing cash for this reason.

            http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/speeches/2015/speech840.pdf

          • not a machine

            Yes but what if it just allowed the super rich to invest more as interesting money transfer to costs were low and government didn’t collect tax on new business construct.

    • William Lewis

      How about now?

    • Dodgy Geezer

      Britain should have caught fire and the few remaining Britons should be huddled at the North Pole dying of heat – according to official statements on Climate Change 10 years ago. Here are some other embarrassing official predictions which ended up 180deg wide of the mark…

      https://www.thenewamerican.com/tech/environment/item/18888-embarrassing-predictions-haunt-the-global-warming-industry
      https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2008/mar/01/scienceofclimatechange.climatechange

    • Chefofsinners

      Been to Venezuela lately?

      • Manfarang

        No but I remember Burma and its Road to Socialism but it is not a major economy.

        • Chefofsinners

          Not going to be any time soon, neither.
          Did you insert that word ‘major’ at a later point or should I have gone to Specsavers?

          • Manfarang

            Yes I did write major first time. (My appointment to have an eye scan at the hospital is on Friday) The great thing about eyes is people have two.

  • Chefofsinners

    All very interesting.
    Did the Archbishop, at any point, in any of these sermons, preach the gospel?

    • Dominic Stockford

      And if he didn’t, should they really be called sermons?

    • SimonToo

      These seem to be short parts of his sermons, so one would expect that he spent lots of time preaching the Gospel (except, perhaps, in his speech to the House of Lords). No doubt his preaching of the Gospel was the larger and more important part, but it was not relevant to the particular subject of this post.

  • Mike Stallard

    What a gentleman he is to find time to reply. It says a lot about the other bishops.
    Bishop King of Lincoln visited every parish in his enormous diocese every year.

    • Father David

      I am a great admirer of the saintly Bishop Edward King but as there are currently 515 parishes and 640 churches in the Lincoln diocese I would very much doubt if he were able to visit “every parish in his enormous diocese every year”. One of Bishop King’s successors – Rob Hardy once famously described his diocese as “2000 square miles of bugger all”!

      • Mike Stallard

        Then perhaps he was not such a great man as Bishop King. (PS I met Rev Hardy at Lincoln theological college in the 1970s.) And – hey – religion is made up of inspiring myths isn’t it – and if not, it ought to be!

        • Father David

          I remember attending Bob Hardy’s Enthronement in Lincoln cathedral in 1987. I recall that as he entered the cathedral he was preceded by an actor dressed in a Court Jester’s costume. Bishop Hardy had a difficult time at Lincoln with that unseemly spat between the then Dean and Sub Dean.

          • Mike Stallard

            Thank God, I had only two years left to serve at that point!

  • Inspector General

    A true leader of Christ’s followers would appreciate the referendum would split the flock down the middle. So what should he have done. Absolutely nothing. Made no statement at all save one “I personally will abstain from voting. I recognise the strong feelings on both sides and say this you: whatever the outcome, let us accept it and continue to live our lives as Christ would expect. I am first and foremost a priest for Jesus. Not a politician”

    It’s a curious thing, you know. The less you say, the more they listen…

    • Chefofsinners

      Sorry, what was that?

    • SimonToo

      It sounds to me that he was incline to remain before the referendum, but now we are leaving he has decided that we should make the best of it.

      It seems to be eminently sensible advice to his flock, which is everyone in England.

  • Chefofsinners

    Justin Welby? Chasing the zeitgeist? Surely not.

  • John

    What a singular waste of the Archbishop’s time. Can you imagine any of the 12 apostles wasting a single breath on the geopolitics of change in the Roman Empire? Instead, they concentrated on matters essential to their calling and Paul, for one, could say ‘from Jerusalem to Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ’.

    • Anton

      For better or worse he runs an Established church, which they didn’t.

      • John

        For worse! Leading an established church shouldn’t mean the pulpit gets hijacked for amateur political commentary instead of for preaching the gospel to a lost nation.

  • not a machine

    I thought the archbishop was a devout remainer? Now has glowing epiphany? I suppose it’s trick or treat politics wonder if any more rocks of remainers will become liberal brexit gushers? If your grace is researching for a book suggest he ask bishops to rate bible vs communist manifesto as which is favourite read.

    • not a machine

      Mmm no one expects the Spanish inquestion….. Hardly a pointy cushion.

      • not a machine

        I know it’s off topic but wondered if your grace had seen that chat bots are evolving into physcotherapists so soon have beta data market on your angst and confessional.

  • Hi

    So if the pope is Jesus’s Vice-regent which I understand to be like a vice president – the Mike Pence or Dan Quayle of the ecclesiastical world- how does Justin Welby fit in? Like he’s Jesus’s Secretary of state or prime minister? Or is that Tony Blair’s job?

    • Ray Sunshine

      That’s what the disagreement was all about in the first place.

      Archbishop: “You claim to be the vice-regent but you’re not.”
      Pope: “Oh yes I am.”
      Archbishop: “No, you’re not, There is no vice-regent.”
      Pope: “Oh yes there is, and it’s me.”
      Archbishop: “Oh no you’re not.”
      Pope: “Oh yes I am.”

  • Marcus Stewart

    Welby’s a man looking for a job.