A Brexit settlement which focuses only on economic considerations and fails to meet the needs of people will lead only to “division and despair”, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.
Attempting to base the negotiations on “calculations of dubious material advantage” will do nothing to address the underlying problems faced by the country, the Most Rev Justin Welby has said.
The warning comes in Welby’s new book, Dethroning Mammon, which he wrote as a meditation to be used during next year’s Lent, drawing on his experiences giving up a highly lucrative position as an oil executive to enter the church.
Welby’s thesis is that Britain and other Western nations have slipped into a tendency to view success and worth merely in material, measurable terms such as income and GDP, leading to the distortion and corruption of society.
“The more interconnected the world becomes, the more power is held over individuals and nations by economics, by money, by flows of finance,” he wrote.
He defines those factors collectively as “Mammon” – a word, derived from Aramaic, used in the New Testament to mean the power of wealth or riches, The Telegraph has reported.
Far from learning from the 2008 financial crash and the “Great Recession” which followed, Welby writes that there are signs of a return to the same “debt-fuelled, crisis-creating model that led us into such trouble in the past”.
On Brexit, he believes it would be “absurd” to try to predict what the effect of leaving the EU will be, but says that there are lessons which can be drawn on immediately.
“It is essential that the new United Kingdom outside Europe is not built to a design drawn by Mammon,” he writes.
“To put it more clearly, materialism is not the answer to the challenges we face. Rather we need a deep sense of the priority of the human person, whoever they are and wherever they come from.
“We need to remind ourselves that Mammon always deceives his followers. A campaign fought on his agenda will lead to division and despair.”
He argues that, fundamentally, it is unchristian to view a healthy bank account, or even a strong economy, as “the goal”. Instead, we should be questioning what good can be achieved with the wealth.
Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, was spotted reading an advance copy of the book on the London Underground last Wednesday morning, just before the Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement.