Brexit is both an inward and backward step

EU and UK flags . Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

EU and UK flags . Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

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While training to be a priest, many years ago, there were two occasions when I was close to leaving and walking away from my vocation.

One encounter with the principal related to what I considered to be the ills of the institutional church. In the middle of our conversation he asked me the question: ‘Are you going to change things more if you are on the outside than the inside?’

Rt Rev Geoff Pearson is the Anglican Bishop of Lancaster

Rt Rev Geoff Pearson is the Anglican Bishop of Lancaster

There was only one answer I could see. It relates to a principle of influence through involvement and is one reason why I will be voting to remain in the EU. Yes, there are faults about this Brussels machine but, in my view, we can only change them by being at the table and not running away.

Secondly, I am conscious my parents and grandparents lived through two world wars. With some exceptions most of Europe has been at peace for more than 70 years. I put that down to the fact we have talked with and met regularly with our European counterparts.

If you look back in church history, you discover some of the doctrinal disputes between east and west occurred simply because they did not meet. I believe, as a Christian, in trying to knock down barriers, not erect them. I read in the New Testament that our calling is to a ministry of reconciliation.

Thirdly, I am minded to vote on the basis of solidarity with the many young people who seem to support our staying in. I sense that, unlike many older people, they have humility about our role in the world.

They are not ‘little Englanders’ who imagine we should have a huge defence budget and be able to sit at the table with the superpowers. They are prepared to learn from the good things they can experience outside our own nation.

There is an unhealthy pressure that causes individuals and institutions to look inwards and lose an outward-looking focus.

It is a battle faced by many churches which can so easily turn into clubs for the like-minded. We must resist that temptation both locally and internationally. In my personal opinion Brexit seems to me both an inward and a backward step.