Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby announced that he backs Britain remaining in the European Union in a newspaper article Sunday, as another poll suggested the “Leave” campaign was pulling ahead.
Welby, the spiritual head of the Church of England and of the wider global Anglican Communion of 85 million Christians, said in a piece for the Mail on Sunday newspaper that he was in favour of “building bridges, not barriers”.
“In no sense do I have some divine hotline to the right answer,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
“We each have to make up our own minds. But for my part, I shall vote to remain.”
Welby is the latest senior figure to come out in favour of EU membership ahead of the June 23 referendum. The International Monetary Fund and G7 have also said Britain should stay in the bloc.
But the “Remain” campaign led by Prime Minister David Cameron appears to be struggling to make a clear breakthrough, less than two weeks before the vote is held.
Opinion polls currently indicate 50 percent support each for the “Remain” and “Leave” sides, according to an average maintained by academics at the What UK Thinks project which excludes undecideds.
A series of recent individual polls have appeared to hand the momentum in the race to “Leave”.
One conducted online by YouGov for this week’s Sunday Times put “Leave” on 43 percent, up one percentage point, and “Remain” on 42 percent, down one percentage point.
Welby argued that voting for Brexit would have a “negative” effect on Britain’s economy and that concerns about immigration must be addressed “without succumbing to our worst instincts”.
On Tuesday, the archbishop suggested the leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party Nigel Farage had been “giving legitimisation to racism” for “political ends” during the referendum campaign.
Farage denied the claim.
Britain’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has said he believes a vote to leave the EU would create “complex problems”.