Christianity, the EU and Brexit

This is the article I published on Conservative Home:



It was a revelation to read a tweet from the Archbishop of Canterbury that was critical of recent words and attempted deeds of the EU. The Church he leads has often been identified with the various Lib Dem and Labour Remain campaigns which he and  other Bishops have  supported in the Lords. These campaigns have always worked from the basis that the EU can do no wrong and the UK can do little right.

His tweet is worth examining, because it explains why he and others like him have been so pro EU before. It turns out to be grounded on some basic misunderstandings of both the nature of the EU and the evolving  constitution and nature of the English/UK state.

“The EU was originally inspired by Christian social teaching at the heart of which is solidarity. Seeking to control the export of vaccines undercuts the EU’s basic ethics. They need to work together with others” he wrote.

Not exactly, Archbishop.

The EU began life as the EEC, a development of the German zollverein or customs union. It was neither free trade oriented nor open to the rest of the world, based on protectionist thinking. The early EEC/EU was strictly secular. The first reference to religions in the Treaties was introduced at Lisbon and remains today as Article 17 of the Treaty of the functioning of the EU. That states that the Union respects different religions and different philosophical and non confessional organisations recognised in individual member states. It does not accord any priority to Christianity or any other religion, and merely says  the EU will have a dialogue with all these bodies. There is no official Church of the EU.  The preamble to the Treaty of Union shows how eclectic the sources of  EU thought are by saying “drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe”. France, a fiercely secular state fought successfully to avoid any reference to the Christian religion in the EU Treaty or constitution. The EU has sought to define inalienable human rights that come from no particular faith or philosophy.

In contrast there are several states in Europe that do afford a special place or mention to a Christian Church and Christian values  in their constitutions.  Denmark, England, Greece, Hungary, Malta and  Norway for example all have state Churches that are identified and given various special privileges or mentions. England is one of the most generous to its established Church, the Church of England which the Archbishop leads.

I do not hear him talking much about the special status the Church enjoys in English and wider UK life. The Church owns substantial legacy property and investment wealth courtesy of the UK state and Parliament.  MPs do not  question this.  Parliament moreover allows the Church to collect all rents and dividends free of income tax, take all capital gains free of Gains Tax, and buy assets free of Stamp Duty, to give it maximum scope to build its wealth and grow its income. It would be good to hear more debate on how that is being used.  It has its own Parliament, rule making and disciplinary bodies, though they are answerable to the UK Parliament and ultimately governed by UK law. The Archbishops and senior Bishops have seats , votes and voices in the UK legislature. Though they are there as part of the wider governing establishment they are under no duty to support the government, and often during a  Conservative government vote and speak in opposition. They  also vote on Northern Irish and Scottish matters  outside the area of their clerical authority. The Archbishop himself has been a  critic of various Brexit measures including the recent  Trade Bill and Internal market Bill.

The Church of England  benefits from its status as the established Church, gaining a near monopoly over all the main UK national and English civic events from royal weddings and funerals through Remembrance Day services, national anniversaries,  civic services for Councils and Mayors, daily prayers in Parliament, to a network of Church schools receiving taxpayer finance. These swell otherwise dwindling congregations.  I will explore the nature of solidarity and where that stands in  modern politics in a later post. I look forward to the evolution of the Archbishop’s thinking on EU matters as he studies  more how the EU seeks  advantage and augments its power in ways that do not offer friendly co-operation with the rest of the world.



  1. Lifelogic
    February 1, 2021

    You point out that “Parliament moreover allows the Church to collect all rents and dividends free of income tax, take all capital gains free of Gains Tax, and buy assets free of Stamp Duty, to give it maximum scope to build its wealth and grow its income.”

    Indeed this should be stopped (also for the Crown Estate etc where this applies) it is clearly unfair competition. If one organisation has these advantages in Stamp duty, CGT, IHT, income tax then in the end almost every property will end up with these organisations.

    1. Hope
      February 1, 2021

      JR, OT.

      But does Raab realise how stupid he sounds today and utterly ridiculous he makes the govt. look? To say Russian prisoners must be released as they were only showing dissent.

      What does he think of the peaceful protests in the U.K. against unnecessary Govt. lockdowns and all those fines were about! His govt not having produced a cost benefit analysis after nearly a year and no scientific evidence lock down works. How do we know, because some US states and other countries have not had lockdowns and have been more successful!

  2. Narrow Shoulders
    February 1, 2021

    Christians (and other religions) really do need to practice what they preach. The Christian ethos (and that of most other religions) is a fine moral code but it does not need to pervade all elements of our lives.

    There is a time to speak and a time to keep quiet, our religious leaders would do well to pay heed to this simple precept.

  3. Narrow Shoulders
    February 1, 2021

    It is notable that there are many in this country who believe that the EU is inherently good and the UK (by which they mean England) is inherently bad.

    The EU’s first major decision other than dealing with the UK leaving since the UK left is a major misstep, could it be that it was the UK influence that made the EU good and it will now revert to type?

  4. Old Albion
    February 1, 2021

    The fact that people who believe ‘religion’ turn out to be muddle headed, is hardly a revelation.

    1. Lynn Atkinson
      February 1, 2021

      Enoch Powell?

  5. Mike Durrans
    February 1, 2021

    I support your comments 100%, I do think the Archbishop allows his personal beliefs to show too much in his professional life

  6. turboterrier
    February 1, 2021

    After all these years of the tax benefits that you write about, is it not time to bring about some changes?
    Are the “books” fully audited, where does all the money go? There must be areas of their financial operations that if they were in our world, the real world the income should be subjected to taxation. If it is good enough for HM The Queen to pay taxes it is good enough for the churches of any denomination to pay their share.
    The only thing in life that is a constant is death, paying taxes and change. Time to bring on some changes.

  7. No Longer Anonymous
    February 1, 2021

    The AoC gets confused about lots of things; ie that he thinks inequality has caused death by CV-19 when in fact it is *equality* which has created the comorbidities that CV-19 preys upon: extreme old age in all classes of people and a surfeit of calories to consume at all levels of society. Only a Lefty could spin these capitalist successes as a failure. I expect life expectancy among the working class is still a darn sight higher than it would have been under an *equal* Communist system. (average death 72 years of age in Russia to date !)

    O/T BBC at it again. The EU shenanigans and von der Leyen bullying of the UK over vaccinations are already slipping down the memory hole. Had it been in reverse they would have been incessant.

  8. Andy
    February 1, 2021

    It is odd that Brexitists think that people who support the EU have to be uncritical about it. Why? I support the EU but recognise that it is far from perfect.

    Do the Brexitists apply the same logic to football – where they uncritically support their team? Because sometimes their team will play badly, or commit a foul or even score an own goal. Do they apply the same logic to their own political party when it makes mistakes, because they all do.

    During the 3 decade long anti-EU campaign Brexitists loved to tell us what was wrong with the EU. They are strangely quiet on all the many flaws of Brexit.

    As for religion, it has no place in politics. God needs to be separated entirely from state. Worship who you like, but keep it out of politics.

    1. NickC
      February 2, 2021

      How are those medicine shortages doing, Andy? Lots of Remains can now see clearly the bullying intransigence and ridiculous demands of the EU, even if you remain oblivious.

      1. bill brown
        February 2, 2021


        What makes you rediculous are your personal attacks.

        1. NickC
          February 3, 2021

          Well, Bill, calling out the EU empire for its appalling behaviour hardly qualifies as a “personal” attack does it? The EU is a political system, not a person.

  9. ukretired123
    February 1, 2021

    Sir John thank you for keeping the beacon focussed on the original values of Christian virtues as many have lost the plot at all levels just like the demise of the Holy Roman Empire. Virtuous circles like Faith Hope and Charity begin at home as you demonstrate gifting your full time knowing that it is crucial to keep the initiative on many fronts.
    Without guidance and the many distractions today millions have lost their way like their so-called leaders.

  10. Iain Moore
    February 1, 2021

    The Church of England may have England in its name, but it never speaks out for its parishioners, the English people. It trawls the world to virtue signal on behalf of people , but you will never hear a peep from them on behalf of English people. Over Devolution, that made us second class citizens, tuition fees that indebted students, and the lack of state funding of services in England, they had nothing to say.

    The C of E used to be known as the conservatives at prayer, they should now be known as the socialists at prayer.

  11. Sir Joe Soap
    February 1, 2021

    This word Solidarity needs to be examined in context.

    Solidarity amongst EU members might benefit some of the weaker or smaller ones, and thereby also in time the stronger members, but if it works against the mutual interests of the world as a whole, that has to be a bad thing e.g trade barriers, vaccine export restrictions.

    Solidarity amongst nation states against where everyone benefits e.g. the spread of the virus, trade barriers, has to be a good thing.

    The arguments really arise when solidarity amongst nation states results in one member being disadvantaged to the benefit of another. Then there is no mutual interest and therefore there won’t be solidarity e.g. totally free movement between nation states.

    The Archbishop needs to think about where he sits in these different scenarios. His preaching has to be more about worldwide solidarity than segmental solidarity.

  12. Grey Friar
    February 1, 2021

    Unfortunately you failed to understand why the Archbishop criticised the Trade Bill and Internal market Bill. He criticised it precisely because it was NOT a Brexit measure. It unlawfully empowered the UK government to set aside the obstacles to trade between GB and NI which Boris agreed to in the Withdrawal Agreement which got Brexit done (and which you voted for in January 2020)

    1. NickC
      February 2, 2021

      The Internal Market bill did no such thing, Grey. It merely allowed the government to retaliate should the EU use the NIP to bully the UK. Which the EU just did in an attempt to cover up its own failures.

    2. dixie
      February 2, 2021

      What competence or authority does the AoC have in matters of trade or treaties?
      It was not an unlawful empowerment since parliament sets the laws in our sovereign country. Executing on the empowerment may have breached an agreement with the EU but even then would not have been illegal or unlawful.
      You could apply the same argument against the EU which was enabled by Article 16 to breach an agreement, why has the AoC not brought his authority and competence to bear against the EU on that?

  13. MiC
    February 1, 2021

    So, the face-eating leopard criticises the buffalo for accidentally eating the odd grasshopper…

    1. NickC
      February 2, 2021

      Even you should be able to see the leopard’s spots on the EU now, Martin. Most of us saw the EU for what it is years ago. Why are you so far behind?

  14. Alan Jutson
    February 1, 2021

    I have to say I was not aware as to all of the financial and tax advantages the Church of England had.

    Do not want to stir up a hornets nest, but do other religions also have a similar advantage ?

    1. Wrinkle
      February 1, 2021

      I wonder if the Church of Scientology here does – they somehow twisted the arm of the US IRS to give them tax free basis.

  15. Richard Binstead
    February 1, 2021

    Well said Sir John!
    I’d like also to see the C of E offering to pay for many of the policy demands it makes to government, which it seems to assume the tax payer would automatically front.
    Additionally, as Her Majesty now pays her fair share of public taxes. It’s now time for the C of E to do the same.

  16. P. Else
    February 1, 2021

    Any organisation that owes much of it’s wealth and influence to government bestowed advantage is thereby not one that I would wish to have anything to do with. The ability of government to favour any particular organisation or group over others is by it’s very nature proof that government exists to promote privilege and advantage to insiders and their friends.
    That most remainers are in groups that have benefited greatly from such special treatment explains their love for the EU which is just a bigger version of the UK government gravy train.
    Government is the opposite of fairness and equality of opportunity.

  17. Bryan Harris
    February 1, 2021

    Nice summary..

    The archbishop appears to be typical of many when it comes to the EU, blinded by the hype but understanding very little of what the EU actually does, or has become.

  18. Newmania
    February 1, 2021

    But the entire House of Lords is non-sensical and I have seen not a squeak form you at any time about it requiring some democratic mandate . Why then do you pick on the Church ?
    The best way to go I think , is to make the House of Lords a PR chamber for some proportion of its members , increase their powers and make them an England only House. With careful work on details we could address John Rewood`s overpowering wish to make its members electorally accountable hem hem ), soften our extreme majoritarian system and rebalance the UK between its parts.
    Or was this just any old stick to beat a remainer with ?

    As if we need ask

    1. NickC
      February 2, 2021

      So even you recognise that Justin Welby is a Remain supporter, Newmania. The issue is, should he be?

  19. NickC
    February 1, 2021

    It never ceases to amaze me how “Christianity” cloaks itself – in every age – in the spirit of the age, and yet seems unaware of this constant failing. Even as recently as the 1970s Christ was likened to communist guerillas (or vice versa) by some clerics. Nowadays, we are told, Christ is all for global government in the name of “solidarity”. I doubt if most Christians now would recognise Christians from another era, so different are their ever changing worldviews.

    Yet atheism has similar fundamental problems. There may be, as Professor Dawkins insists, such a thing as “the selfish gene” but it is a sight more difficult to defend the concept of the selfish universe. The only alternative to a designed universe (and designed life within it) is an un-designed universe – a universe (and life) that exist by chance. Effectively Prof Dawkins and his followers countenance the “selfish gene” by unconscious anthropomorphism – the selfish universe is self evidently absurd.

    1. No Longer Anonymous
      February 1, 2021

      The selfish gene can, indeed, come about in an undesigned universe. Anything that accords with the physical laws of that universe can (and does) happen.

      1. NickC
        February 3, 2021

        No Longer, And how did all the convenient physical laws come about? Magic?

  20. Hope
    February 1, 2021

    JR, no mention of Cambridge debate last week where anti lockdown won. The team are no substantive evidence based reasons for it. Glad to see Graham Brady MP, Richard Tice and Toby Young win the debate.

    Good articles in Con Woman to demonstrate Desmond Swayne MP is correct about Govt manipulated figures. Obviously Gove, Patel and others with poor memories and an inability for baisc maths need to apologise. After all Whitty and Valance wrongly claimed 4,000 deaths a day in October, never materialized. But scared Jelly fish Johnson into another unnecessary lockdown.

    Johnson already using false misleading, if not dishonest, language to blame an inanimate virus for all his catastrophic decions rather than accept responsibility is outrageous. Copying others through lack of leadership is not an excuse. Keeping children locked up in known death trap flats without ability to be educated, seek help if abused etc. WHO in 2019 concluded lockdowns not the answer, govt report last February came to the same conclusion!

    Taxpayers Alliance highlighting taxation at 70 year high! Higher tax under three Fake Tory PM than Churchill.

  21. Hope
    February 1, 2021

    Has Johnson allowed Astrazenica to divert 9 million does of vaccine from a U.K. To EU?

    Why has the useless NHS made 9 videos in different languages to persuade people to have the vaccine! Cost is prohibitive as it already spends tens of millions in translation services!, but how does this promote British values, language being central to this, that successive Fake Tory govt have said is key to integration?

  22. Cliff. Wokingham
    February 1, 2021

    Interesting Sir John.
    I must admit I thought the EU was born out of the European Coal and Steel Treaty back in the early 50s.
    I know the aforementioned was integrated into the European Economic Community which eventually became the current EU.
    I suspect, given that most of Europe was Christian at the time, it would follow that much of Christian morality and ethics would be present.
    I am a member of The Christian Democratic Party which is Catholic based but I would suggest we are more Conservative than the current Conservative party.

  23. None of the Above
    February 1, 2021

    The Arch Bishop of Canterbury or indeed any other senior cleric in the House of Lords is there to speak to genuine social issues and I would support them in that task. Taking sides in the Brexit debate, arguing against a Bill designed to safeguard trade within the UK or any other party political matter is not, in my view, part of their mandate and never has been.
    I am sure that The Arch Bishop could learn much from the Head of the Church in England about the wisdom of not commenting on political matters.

  24. Helen Smith
    February 1, 2021

    It would be lovely if the mix of spite, lies and legalised theft from the EU over the past week, over life saving vaccines of all things, opened more eyes, it seems it is beginning to.

  25. John McDonald
    February 1, 2021

    I have to agree that the Church of England leadership is very pro EU and overtly sends this message to the general membership. Not wishing to debate the existence of Jesus, but the clear message is render to the authorities what is theirs and to God what is God’s. A Christian has to judge if a course of action is un-Christian in regard to Brexit, Labour, Conservative , Remain or the EU. These are all the authorises (Caesar’s)
    Any adverse comment from the Church leadership on any political grouping must be clearly based in proving it is being un-Christian in it’s action and aims, before passing any public judgement or implied judgement, on a political view.
    It is not un-Christian to Remain in or Leave the EU nor Vote Labour or Conservative.

  26. Lynn Atkinson
    February 1, 2021

    I see this ‘Christian institution’, the EU, has banned British shellfish indefinitely. One thing for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be a fool, completely another for the British PM to be one too, and to lie to the British people – he said it was a ‘temporary ban’.
    Time to get off our bellies and stop presenting ourselves for yet another EU kicking.

    1. Hope
      February 1, 2021

      Why does govt want to move on? This was not a mistake i.e. Accidental. It was deliberate. What is going with services negotiation? Does this node well for more bad faith?

      The servitude agreement gets worse by the day. I am flabbergasted UK military need permission to move equipment to N.Ireland and notify NATO.

      I still wonder why Johnson wants to move on after EU threatened to stop vaccines that would result in killing people? Von Leyon claims Johnson gave her assurances vaccines made in UK would be given to EU! Is the 9 million now being given to the EU? We need to know why Johnson capitulated, again.

      1. Alan Jutson
        February 1, 2021

        Clearly I am missing something about us giving 9,000,000 doses of vaccine to the EU.

        Surely only after we have vaccinated our own people, and surely they are paying for It, if of course its true. !!!

  27. jon livesey
    February 1, 2021

    Christianity is an important issue to many people, but I have not seen a single mention of it in weeks of EU press conferences, nor in years of Withdrawal and Trade negotiations with the EU.

    The EU make no bones about their motivations being the interests of their own consumers and suppliers, plus their goal of European integration. They don’t even use religion as a cloak for their goals.

    The idea that religion pushes us toward European integration isn’t even wrong or mistaken; it’s just irrelevant.

  28. Everhopeful
    February 1, 2021

    Do not allow the bogus SAGE to make mask wearing outside mandatory!

  29. ChrisS
    February 1, 2021

    I am shocked and alarmed to read that it is now necessary for United Kingdom Armed Forces to fill in a customs declaration and NATO form 302 in order to transfer military hardware within the United Kingdom
    IE between England and NI.

    If this is true, it has to be ignored or Westminster must expressly legislate to remove the requirement from the statute book.

    We cannot have impositions like this imposed on our country.
    It strikes at the very heart of our sovereignty.

    1. Hope
      February 1, 2021


    2. Multi- ID
      February 1, 2021

      There will be a border poll probably in 2030 and that will solve everything.. demographics

    3. Carson
      February 2, 2021

      That was what Boris agreed to in his oven ready deal. He sacrificed NI and got a huge majority at the polls. Are you saying British voters didnt know what they were voting for?

  30. glen cullen
    February 1, 2021

    I am still waiting to see and/or hear of any new benefit of the Trade & Coop Agreement

    If everything is remaining the same ….what was the point ?

  31. Multi- ID
    February 1, 2021

    Stupid stuff this Christianity only two thousand years old.. have decided I’m going to wait for another two thousand years before I make my mind up

  32. Margaretbj
    February 2, 2021

    I would think that being inspired by and incorporation into a treaty are separate things.

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