BREXIT could act as “a catalyst of British introspection, xenophobia, and self-pity”, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
In his new book, Reimagining Britain: Foundations for hope, which will be published next week, the Archbishop writes that “the cracks in society have begun to show, expressed in crime, in the growth of intolerance, and above all of an inward-turning.
“Brexit risks becoming not merely Britain’s exit from the EU, but a catalyst of British introspection, xenophobia, and self-pity, if a self-regarding attitude leads to economic failure and international impotence, as well as being morally wrong in and of itself.”
He argues that the UK is at a political and moral tipping-point, and that he has written the book to contribute to the debate on the future of the country, particularly after Brexit (News, 16 February).
Elsewhere in the book, he writes that the financial crisis of 2008 had a “profound effect on the UK from which it has yet to recover. Although economic output is now above the previous peak, the cumulative forgone growth during the period of slowdown is enormous. The psychological effects are even greater. . .
“It is the combination of massive economic shock and huge external change that I suggest will make the next couple of decades or more a period of reimagination on the scale of post-1945.”
Speaking to the media last week, in advance of publication of his book, Archbishop Welby emphasised that his vision was based on Christian values of cohesion, courage, and sustainability. “If we pretend we do not have a Christian tradition and heritage, we start in a vacuum.” He urged Churches and Christians to “be confident in what we believe”.
Christian faith was “not left-wing or right-wing”, he said, and his book was not “pro- or anti-government”.
He ends his book by saying: “The UK grew from Christian roots: my hope is that in the future it rediscovers the power of the narrative that has shaped it for so long and set its values so deeply.”
The Archbishop also said that he did not see how sharia could “fit within our legal system”, and that it “comes from a very different background of jurisprudence to the one from which British law has developed over the past 500 years”.
This follows a Government review into sharia, which concluded that a “culture change” in Muslim communities is required for women’s civil rights to be acknowledged (News, 9 February).
His comments follow a government review of sharia, which said that a “culture of change” was needed in Muslim communities to acknowledge women’s civil rights.
In 2008, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams suggested finding some form of “constructive accommodation” between English law and sharia (News, 8 February 2008).
Read our columnist Paul Vallely on how the book might relate to Catholic social teaching
You can also read our columnist Andrew Brown on how the book was covered by the press