Justin Welby: It could take society 'ten years' to reconcile after Brexit

  • Video report by ITV News presenter Julie Etchingham

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said it could take society "ten years" to reconcile after Brexit, thanks to a referendum that has opened "so much bitterness."

In an interview with ITV News ahead of the Christmas celebrations, Justin Welby also warned that politicians face a moral choice when considering the prospect of no deal - and said a second referendum could be dangerous.

In December he told the House of Lords that despite being a Remainer "I fully accept" the decision of the referendum.

Explaining his stance to ITV News he said: "The first referendum seemed to open so much bitterness in our society, I really believe we have to pay attention to the result of that referendum.

"It didn't matter which way you wanted it to go,the way people voted must be respected and it would be a great sign of parliamentary failure if we actually had to have a second referendum."

Remarking on the deep rifts Brexit has caused within the nation, he remained hopeful about society making "good progress."

"Reconciliation is always a process and not an event, it's something that takes time," he said.

"You build layer upon layer of relationship of helping each other, it involves relieving actual need, it involves regret and repentance, it involves acknowledging where things went wrong, where you went wrong, where the other went wrong, it involves truth seeking, it is a process that is cautiouslypiled layer upon layer upon layer until you've built this bridge across the gap.

"And I think in our society we can make good progress in three or four years and I think it will take longer than that to achieve a real sense. But that is very short compared to much reconciliation.

When pressed on how long the process would take he said: "It depends on how people pursue it but ten [years]would be good, to get to a point where we've put it behind us and it was no more than a painful memory."

When asked about Britain exiting Europe without a deal he highlighted why politicians faced a moral choice.

"They have to be certain that it can be managed in a way that the most vulnerable do not suffer," he said.

"If they're not certain of that, that raises a very serious moral question about whether no-deal could be acceptable."

The Archbishop was visiting a children's hospice in Kent on Friday - where he reflected too on how he and his wife coped when they lost their first child in a car accident in 1983.

Remarking on how his own tragic experience helped empathise with the families at the hospice he said: "God never wastes anything, even terrible things like the death of a child, evil terrible things they're never wasted because in his grace we can sometimes be with people."