The acting Bishop of Lichfield has said he will vote to remain in the EU, warning that leaving could see the most vulnerable sections of society paying the price for a weaker economy.
People across Britain will cast their vote in the referendum tomorrow (June 23).
But the Rt Revd Clive Gregory says any move which would potentially damage the economy would be a costly one.
“I have direct contact with many communities through the work the churches do in their local neighbourhoods,” he said. “This has opened my eyes to the terrible impact that the recession and its aftermath has had on many of the poorest and most vulnerable people in this region – and I see the pain continuing as local authorities have no choice but to impose further public spending cuts and wages in many sectors remain depressed.
“There have been endless claims and counter claims in the campaign. I have found it very difficult to work out the true facts about the key issues. But one central, and for me persuasive, fact is that the UK economy will surely suffer badly if we vote to leave the EU on Thursday.
“The pound will fall, the stock market will tumble and in the coming few years our economy will shrink significantly. Who will bear the brunt of this? I think most of us will suffer.
“But I fear most for those who are very reliant on public services and who are already struggling to make ends meet. I worry too about the employment prospects for our young people within a contracting economy.”
Both camps are embarking on a final day of campaigning today (June 23) in a bid to win over voters.
But Bishop Gregory said solidarity with Europe would help create a safer world.
“I believe that we will be safer by remaining within the European Union,” he said. “We should not forget that wars, including two world wars, regularly occurred on the European continent until the second half of the last century.
“The peace that we have enjoyed during the last 70 years should not be taken for granted. I believe the best way of preserving it is by maintaining the close economic, diplomatic and political ties we have with our European neighbours rather than choosing to go it alone.
“Our joint fight against international terrorism, including the sharing of intelligence information , will also suffer if we withdraw from the EU.
“I am sharing my views out of concern for the future welfare of the people of this region should we vote to leave the EU on Thursday. I know that there are many Christians and others who will take a different view.
“Whatever the result we must be united in our respect for the outcome and I urge people of faith to pray that the result may be in accordance with God’s will for our nation.”