Cardinal Nichols on Brexit

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The Archbishop of Westminster said that many people in the UK would be “coping with a combination of anxiety and enthusiasm” as the Prime Minister signed a letter marking the official divorce of the UK from the European Union.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols is the Vice-President of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE). He made his remarks from Barcelona on Wednesday as British Ambassador Tim Burrows handed the letter triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council.

His Eminence is currently taking part in a symposium on young people in Spain. He said that his country had been divided on the issue of Brexit since the launch of the referendum. He added that, since the decision had been made, “we need to move on.”

He spoke about two major issues. The first is “the economic and financial repercussions” of the decision to leave the EU; the second is “the question of the movement of people across borders that are bound to change.” In particular, he referred to the “delicate issue involving Eire and Northern Ireland.”

Making the distinction between the EU and Europe, Cardinal Nichols insisted that “it should be pointed out that England does not want to leave Europe,” but instead, “the issue at stake is the European Union.” He reflected on two factors in particular that have played an important role in the decision-making process. “First of all, the feeling of distance and separation that citizens have constantly perceived from Brussels and Strasbourg. Second, the way in which the European Union has addressed the question of diversity.”

The President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales highlighted that his nations still has a place in Europe. Concerning the relationship between the UK and the rest of Europe in the future, he said “we intend to be good neighbours for European countries.” In this respect, he spoke about the ties between the Catholic Churches in other European countries.