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Weighing the pros and cons of EU membership

28 February 2014


From Canon Andrew Bowden

Sir, - So, serious debate about our membership of the European Union has begun at last. In her excellent article (Comment, 21 February), Sue Bird makes a well-informed case for Christians to vote in favour of our country's remaining a full EU member. The members of Faith in Europe also believe that there are good religious reasons to do so.

The founding fathers of the European enterprise were devout Christians. After two wars that had devastated our continent and much of the rest of the world, their faith inspired them to devise a practical institution that would make it very difficult for this to happen again. The Nobel Prize Committee last year recognised that the European Institutions have indeed played a significant part in helping to keep the peace in Europe since 1945.

The transition of the former Communist countries to genuine democracy was bound to be difficult and will take time; but the European Institutions have played a key part in helping this to happen. Despite local difficulties, they are, in the long term, a powerful force for taming dictatorship, corruption, and organised crime.

The EU is at the heart of our country's involvement in Europe, and leaving it would diminish our standing and influence in other European bodies, such as the Council of Europe, which promote human rights and freedom - especially religious freedom.

Europe has been a force for good in UK women's lives, pushing reluctant British governments over the years into adopting legislation, including equal pay for work of equal value, and giving more rights for part-time workers. Nearly half of all British women workers are employed part-time, and, thanks to EU legislation, they now enjoy pro-rata paid leave, pensions, maternity rights, and access to other company training and benefits.

Families have also gained from improved maternity and parental leave, shorter working hours, the right to paid holidays, and equal rights to a pension.

The European enterprise goes back a long way in Christian history - to the Imperium Romanum, to Alcuin, and to Charlemagne; and, indeed, to the core ideal of an international family of God which all Christian Churches have in common. Faith in Europe is the official interreligious co-ordinating group of CTBI (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland); our website is www.faithineurope.org.uk.

Having regularly studied European faith issues in some depth, we believe that the UK should continue to take a full and enthusiastic part in the EU.

on behalf of Faith in Europe
Washbrook Cottage, Caudle Green
Cheltenham GL53 9PW


From Dr David Bunch

Sir, - Sue Bird rightly draws attention to many positives that membership of the European Union brings. These include environmental concern, fair trade, peace among neighbours, and some progressive domestic and international social policies.

Where she is on weaker ground is in underplaying contemporary problems. The economic well-being of its members is not evenly spread, owing in part to a Eurozone monetary straitjacket. The so-called social model is frequently associated with bureaucratic rules that act as a brake on commercial innovation. The Community's drive for a centralised and federal Europe hasa democratic deficit at its heart.

Christians need to avoid the insular nationalism of right-wing Euroscepticism. It is no service to the common good, however, to minimise the case for radically changed relationships with and within the EU.

53 Rye Croft
Conisbrough DN12 2BD

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