One of Britain’s most senior bishops has hit out at Project Fear, describing Chancellor George Osborne’s warning of economic doom in the event of Brexit as “ludicrous”.
Peter Smith, the Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, bemoaned the fact the European Union (EU) referendum debate was focusing so much on economics, saying it was impossible to forecast the long-term economic impact of Brexit.
Archbishop Smith, who is deputy chair of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, added that the single currency had not worked for the continent’s poorest countries, and that many in Britain do not want to be part of a United States of Europe.
“When we joined the European Union many decades ago, one of the chief arguments was about trade, that we would be better off and it would help the economy,” he said.
“The problem is that the EU has become extremely bureaucratic. It’s not working with the euro, and I think all of us are glad we didn’t go into the euro.”
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Smith also said that he did not trust George’s Osborne’s predictions of economic meltdown if Britain votes to leave.
“I am very sceptical of the economic arguments that the Chancellor makes. When he does a budget, very often by the end of the year his forecasts are all over the place.”
British people also do not want to be part of further EU integration, the Archbishop said.
“With this real fundamental desire to become more integrated, like a European [United] States – that, many of us find difficult to swallow.
“I don’t think that is the right thing to do.”
The euro in particular “hasn’t worked”, particularly with weaker economies like Greece, Portugal and Spain.
Archbishop Smith is the first senior clergyman of any major Christian denomination to show public sympathy for the Brexit campaign.
His colleague Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, recently appeared to back the Remain campaign when he said leaving the EU would create “more complex problems” and said the “Catholic stance towards an effort such as the EU is largely supportive.”
Cardinal Nichols’s predecessor, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, went even further by writing in Spectator about why he wants Britain to stay in the EU.
Many of the European Union’s founders were Catholic, but British Catholics remain split on Brexit.
The Catholic Herald quotes journalist and prominent convert Charles Moore as saying: “The European Union has become godless.
“When they had a draft constitution, they deliberately kept God out of it. That wasn’t something that offended me, because as someone who has a great respect for God, I wouldn’t particularly want him to be in the European Constitution – but it worried some Catholics, I know.”