The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned of higher poverty and unemployment if parliament allows a no-deal Brexit – and called a Final Say referendum “possible”.

Justin Welby welcomed a crucial vote by MPs this week, which meant decisions on what happens if the prime minister’s deal is rejected “are now left firmly in the hands of parliament, as is right.”.

But he urged MPs and peers to be on their guard against “an accidental leaving without an agreement” – something Theresa May insists she is willing to push through, if necessary.

And he warned: “If we leave the EU with no deal, there’s a significant danger more people will be pushed into poverty.

“Some may argue that’s only going to be temporary. But we need to remember that for those in poverty, temporary is an eternity.”

On a fresh referendum on the Brexit outcome, Mr Welby added it was “a possible but not immediately preferable choice”, suggesting it would be necessary if parliament “failed in its responsibilities”.

The Archbishop was speaking in the House of Lords, during the debate leading up to the landmark vote – in the Commons only – on the prime minister’s deal next Tuesday.

It is not the first time he has been willing to speak out on political controversies, having demanded a halt to the introduction of universal credit in September.

In his speech, Mr Welby said: “Although a Remainer, I fully accept the decision of the referendum, which must now be implemented,”

But he added post-Brexit Britain must see an end to “so many years of austerity, borne so often by the poorest”.

“The burden of the transition to a post-EU economy, if there is a burden, must be carried by those with the broadest shoulders – the wealthiest – and not by further cuts, whether in local services, social care, benefits, the armed forces, climate change budgets, education, or others that have lost so much in recent years,” Mr Welby said.


The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

Sign our petition here

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