Since the UK voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, the Brexit process has dominated British politics. Through this time, the Churches produced a number of briefings, statements and resources exploring the key issues surrounding Brexit, and encouraging conversation across division.
EU Citizens in the UK
Britain has now left the European Union, but over 3.5 million EU nationals call the UK their home. EU citizens wishing to stay in the UK have to apply for a new immigration status, referred to as EU Settled Status, by the 30th June 2021.
We’re resourcing church leaders and others who work in the community to support people who might struggle with the process of application.
Briefing for church leaders as the end of the Brexit transition period approaches
The Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020. The UK constitutionally left the European Union on 31 January 2020, but remained part of the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market during the transition period, meaning most practical arrangements did not change. From 1 January 2021, new arrangements have come into place that have had and will continue to have far-reaching consequences for our common life.
This internal paper sought to inform those in local and national church leadership about issues that might have a particular impact on communities, congregations and wider society.
Note: This briefing was issued on 23 December 2020, before the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement was finalised.
Statement from Church Leaders ahead of 31st January 2020, and letter to European partners
On Friday 24th January 2020, Church Leaders released a joint statement regarding the UK’s imminent exit from the European Union. This was accompanied by a letter from Church Leaders addressed to partner Churches and Church organisations in Europe.
Statement from British Church leaders and representatives as the UK prepares to leave the European Union
We, the leaders and representatives of ten British Church denominations and networks, speak together as the UK prepares to leave the European Union on Friday 31 January 2020.
Three and a half years after the UK voted to leave the European Union, the point of departure has now been reached. The process of arriving at this point has been bruising and divisive. For some this date will mark the realisation of a long-held ambition and a moment of celebration. For others, however, it will be an occasion of great loss, marking the moment when deeply held desires for the nations of the UK are placed beyond reach.
Church members in good conscience continue to hold a wide range of views about Brexit. As Church leaders and representatives, we are united in wishing to seek God’s guidance and a sense of common purpose as we move from this chapter of the Brexit process into the next.
As the UK leaves the EU there are important choices to be made about the values that we as a country live out. As Christians, we affirm our belief that all people are equally created in God’s image. Our country should be one that offers sanctuary to refugees and is intolerant of those who hate because of a person’s race or nationality. Both Leave and Remain campaigns agreed on this – we must now make it a reality.
The continuing challenges of the climate crisis, global inequality and conflict will require both resolve and close international cooperation to be addressed effectively.
We greatly value the love and friendship of our sisters and brothers in other European churches, and a group of us are writing to them publicly today to assure them that these relationships will continue. We also recognise that 31 January will bring uncertainty and anxiety to many EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in the EU. Leaving the EU cannot mean abandoning our responsibilities towards these families.
Brexit exposed and exacerbated divisions in British society. The deeply held convictions that fuelled the Brexit debate will not simply go away, but our Christian faith urges us to be people of peace and reconciliation. If the bitterness of the last four years is not to persist in polluting our national life, we will all need to resist the temptation to hold on onto the hurts of the past, or to act in ways which will be perceived as triumphalist.
We will only be able to move towards having a sense of common purpose, despite our differences, when we choose to act with kindness, humility and respect towards those with whom we disagree. We call on our political leaders to set an example over the next weeks and months as we move towards negotiations which will require further decisions about priorities for the nations of the UK.
For our part, our Churches will be working and praying for:
- a society where the poorest and most marginalised are at the centre
- a society that welcomes the stranger
- a just economy that enables the flourishing of all life
- a planet where the environment is renewed
- a world which actively works for peace
- a politics characterised by listening, kindness and truthfulness.
We pray for the people of the UK, for our leaders, and for the whole of Europe, as we mark this significant moment together.
Revd Dr Barbara Glasson and Professor Clive Marsh, President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference
Revd David Mayne, Moderator of Council, Baptist Union of Great Britain
The Right Revd Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
Revd Nigel Uden and Mr Derek Estill, Moderators of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
Most Revd Father Olu Abiola OBE and Archbishop Fidelia Onyuku-Opukiri, Council of African and Caribbean Churches UK
Yvonne Campbell, General Secretary, on behalf of the Council of the Congregational Federation
Revd Dr Noel A Davies, Chair, Cytûn: Churches Together in Wales’ Working Party on Wales and Europe
Bishop Simon Iheanacho, Overseer, UK World Evangelism Churches
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
Most Revd Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
24 January 2020
Prayers have been written to support this statement by some Church Leaders:
Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you”.
As the day of Brexit approaches,
we pray that we will live out the challenge that Jesus gave us
and hold firm to it in our daily lives with him no matter what.
As our nation leaves the European Union,
help us to find new ways to live, work and play together
with our brothers and sisters across Europe.
As we face a new beginning and a new direction,
whatever our hopes and our fears,
may we hold fast to your promises
and live out the love of God with and for everyone.
Derek Estill, URC General Assembly Moderator, 2018-2020
However we feel about today
We mark this Brexit day
As people who grieve or celebrate together
Loved equally, freely and unconditionally
By the one wise all-seeing God
Either way let us hold this day gently
Giving ourselves permission to leave
Without elation or despair
Determined to love our neighbour
Support the weak and welcome the stranger
Lord of all life
Let your servants depart in peace
And live according to your Holy Law
Revd Dr Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference 2019-2020
Effect of a No-Deal Brexit on the Poorest in Society
In July 2019, seven Church leaders wrote to the Prime Minister expressing concerns over the adverse effects of a no-deal Brexit on the poorest citizens in the UK. The letter received around 2,500 additional signatures. You can find the letter here:
The Churches have since received a reply from the Prime Minister. You can see the reply and our response here:
In difficult and divided times, we are called to pray for those who lead our society and those who will feel the impact of Brexit hardest.
Barbara Glasson and Clive Marsh, the President and Vice President of the Methodist Conference wrote a pastoral letter touching on how to best lead church congregations and communities through the uncertainty of Brexit.
Here is the most recent prayer written by Revd Dr Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference:
Lead our leaders, God of wisdom
guide them past the lure of power or self importance
give them courage to tell the truth,
empathy to listen
and enduring compassion for the voiceless.
When the paths of our opinions diverge,
the way seems treacherous or our criticism destructive
for heaven’s sake,
call us all to account, to apology and to compassion
so that together we can be people of hope, truth, kindness and justice.
The key events in the conversation around Brexit are changing quickly. We try and keep up to date with opinion pieces and information on the JPIT Blog. You can find all of our blogs about Brexit here:
Conversation Welcome is a resource designed to equip churches to have health conversations about the sort of society we wish to live in and to leave to future generations. It provides a series of video led discussion group sessions, which can be used to create space to talk about the difficult issues Brexit raises.
In January 2019, The Methodist Council spent some time looking at the challenges of Brexit and Beyond, considering it’s implications for local communities, our country and our churches using a paper written by our team leader Rachel Lampard.
You can find Rachel’s paper here.
You are invited to use both of these resources to continue the conversation in your church about Brexit.
More useful resources
Corrymeela have produced a Bible study to explore conversations about Brexit, borders and belonging using the book of Ruth.
Crossing Borders: Exploring Brexit through the lens of Ruth