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Archbishop: You can't say 'God says you must vote this way or that way' on EU referendum

There is no "one correct Christian view" on the European referendum, The Archbishop of Canterbury has said - as he encouraged people to vote based on what they fear most.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby Credit: PA

In an interview with The House magazine, Justin Welby, the most senior bishop in the Church of England, also addressed the migrant crisis - saying it was "outrageous" to brand those with concerns as "racist", while urging the government to do more.

He said he had been hesitant in speaking out on Europe until now because of the sensitive nature of the debate - and warned others against insisting on a particular viewpoint.

"You can’t say ‘God says you must vote this way or that way’," he said.

"It should be about what we fear. Fear is a valid emotion. Fear of what happens if we leave, fear of what happens if we stay. You can understand why that really matters.

"Fear is legitimate."

Justin Welby said there was 'no one correct Christian view' on the issue Credit: PA

In the interview, he said the vote had to be about what Britain does in the world.

It mustn’t all be about us... This country has this extraordinary history, going back hundreds of years, of outward-looking, confident, often wonderful work around the world.

At the moment we’re one of the most effective people on international development, we’re one of the most effective people on international trade, we lead the world on tackling modern slavery, and we have huge skills and gifts to bring.

I suppose I’d love to hear, from both sides, how those are deployed if we leave, or if we stay.

– Archbishop Justin Welby

He went on to say he hoped to have a "really visionary debate" about what the country will look like after the referendum on June 23.

"From those who want to leave; what would it look like? What would Britain look like, having left? What would be its attitude internationally? What would be its values? What are the points of excitement, of contributing to human flourishing? How does that liberate the best that is within us?" he added.

"And from those who want to stay, how would we change the European Union? How would we make it more effective if we remained in it? What’s our vision?"

The then-Bishop of Durham Justin Welby at Sunderland Minster, launching the 'One for the basket' scheme to supply food to struggling people in 2012 Credit: PA

In the interview, he also touched on the current migrant crisis facing Europe - saying it was "very reasonable" for people in the UK to "fear" an influx of migrants.

Dismissing those fears as racist is "absolutely outrageous”, he said - but urged people to understand that the country “has the capacity” to deal with many more refugees than it is currently due to accept.

He urged authorities, and charities, to help ensure enough resources were in place to held people overcome their fears.

Fear is a valid emotion at a time of such colossal crisis. This is one of the greatest movements of people in human history. Just enormous. And to be anxious about that is very reasonable.

There is a tendency to say ‘those people are racist’, which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous.

In fragile communities particularly – and I’ve worked in many areas with very fragile communities over my time as a clergyman – there is a genuine fear: What happens about housing? What happens about jobs? What happens about access to health services?

There is a genuine fear. And it is really important that that fear is listened to and addressed. There have to be resources put in place that address those fears.

– Archbishop Justin Welby

Communities are “much more absorbent and capable than we give them credit for”, he added.

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