The Archbishop writes in the Daily Telegraph today about the European Union Referendum - his article follows in full....
It is sad that one issue has not emerged in the referendum debate: the keeping of promises. The campaign’s two sides seem to agree that the world began yesterday and we are faced with a clean slate and may position ourselves to greatest advantage. But the world, our European neighbours and we ourselves all have a recent history.
If we deny that history and undertakings already made within it, we deny our connection with what our predecessors have done, which means denying our own national identity. All institutions need renewal and change, and European institutions are notorious for their jungle of regulations. They need regular pruning and reform if they are to meet contemporary problems that engross us all. But Europe is bigger than European institutions.
Britain bound itself by successive treaties to partnership with the other nations of the European Union in perpetuity. Does this act of national self-commitment performed by our predecessors in the Seventies have any value or importance for us? Economically, it's possible that Britain may survive outside the European Union. But where would be our self-respect and sense of identity with history? And why would other nations wish to make other agreements with a nation whose word is no longer its bond?
My memory tells me that I must vote to Remain in the European Union. The possibility of any kind of organised political life depends on successive generations accepting the responsibilities undertaken before them. This applies both to the internal stability of nations, and also to the external stability of relations among them. The implication of wanting to decide everything afresh in every generation is universal instability. If we are serious about supporting either national or international order, we shall have to be prepared to live up to inherited obligations, even if we may sometimes think that they would have been better not incurred.
We need to remind ourselves of the contribution which the existence of the EU has made to peace in Europe since the Second World War; ways in which the existence and support of the EU has helped the development of smaller, weaker members, particularly over the past 20 years; our common Christian heritage and what this means and has created in practice; and the impact of sharing of arts, science, research and other cultural aspects.
We should also consider what is likely to lead to mutual flourishing and to encourage peace. Not all decisions should be made purely on the basis of “What’s in it for us?” It is also significant, therefore, that a far higher percentage of young people wish to stay in the EU than older people; it is they, principally, who will have to live with the consequences of the decision that we take on June 23.
Britain is a leader in Europe and ought not to exaggerate either its strength or weakness. The Psalmist pronounces a blessing on the one who “stands by his oath even to his hurt” (Psalm 15: 46b). One of the enduring British characteristics, nurtured and honed by the Christian ethic in its application to human responsibility, accountability and the ever changing challenges, is the tenacity – like a Yorkshire Terrier never letting go and only doing so in order to get a firmer grip – to stick to the Rule Book when one disagrees with others’ decisions.
We should continue to work and walk together. Reconciliation and honourable political and economic accommodation are always possible. That goes some way to explain why British membership of the UN, Nato, the Commonwealth, and now the EU have survived this long. Isn’t the best way of winning over those we disagree with to make them our friends? Moral responsibilities must never give way to pragmatism.
The failure to remember promises is a failure to remember oneself. The great historian Professor Henry Chadwick summed it up once in a speech at the General Synod:
“No, we do not want to get stuck in our past… But nothing is sadder than someone who has lost his memory – and it can be very tragic.”
The same is true of nations in general and of Great Britain in particular.