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Brexit : les chefs religieux disent la vérité au pouvoir en place

With the Brexit debate becoming increasingly divisive as the deadline for Britain’s proposed departure from the EU approaches, religious leaders have appealed for calm and mutual respect on all sides. The Church of England bishops released a joint statement calling on people not to exacerbate tensions inside and outside the Parliament and tone down the rhetoric.

In their letter they asked to be mindful of fellow citizens, their views and their votes. They also called on the leading politicians to respect the rule of law, referring to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s earlier disagreement with the Supreme Court declaring his prorogation of the parliament unlawful. The bishops made the statement fully affirming their respect for the outcome of the June 2016 referendum which resulted in majority of British people voting to come out of the European Union.

This is not the first time Christian leaders have openly expressed their anxieties about societal divisions generated by the Brexit debate. Earlier this year representatives of different Christian denominations have already written an open letter to Boris Johnson expressing their concerns about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and its impact on the most vulnerable members of society. In particular, they called on the government to publish its current evidence on the impact of a no-deal on disadvantaged communities. Their concerns made all the more pertinent with the growing number of people resorting to foodbanks.

The European referendum exposed many divisions within British society and Christian groups were no exception. Only last year, a study by Linda Woodhead and Greg Smith found differences in opinions – for example, the majority of those who identify with the Church of England supported Brexit, with 66% of Anglicans voting Leave, compared to a national average of 52%. On the other hand, self-defined English Evangelicals appeared to be more pro-European in their outlook.

Somewhat similar conclusions were reached in another piece of research based on the data from Waves 7-9 of the 2016 British Election Study Referendum Panel. Ekaterina Kolpinskaya and Stuart Fox suggested that adherents to the Church of England and Church of Scotland, both with historically strong connections to the state and national identity, were most Eurosceptic, whereas Catholics were not found to be especially Europhile, contrary to popular expectations. Their study also found that the non-religious tended to be more supportive of remaining in the European Union.

Increasing calls for greater scrutiny and consideration may reflect high levels of frustration with the Brexit process. However, this also suggests a certain willingness amongst different denominations or at least their leaders to reach out across the divides and develop a greater sense of societal cohesion. Whether their collective efforts to speak truth to power are successful remains to be seen.

D 2 octobre 2019    AKatya Braginskaia

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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