Brexit’s unintended impact on immigration and religion

The decision by Britain to pull out of the European Union in late June has been cited as having a wide range of political and economic ramifications, but “Brexit’s” impact may likewise have various unintended religious consequences, particularly regarding immigration and interfaith relations. The Tablet (July 2), a British Catholic magazine, looked at how Brexit might affect Catholic school and church attendance in England. The popularity of Catholic schools and “still steady levels of Mass attendance” in and around London owe a debt to the immigrant communities: “If the Poles, Romanians, Italians, French, Spanish, Portuguese and even Irish no longer feel so welcome and go home, or if the steady stream of recent years is reduced to a mere trickle, there will be quite a few empty pews and classrooms in the capital. And a lot less cash in the diocesan coffers.” That Catholics were more supportive of the EU may be because its roots were in church social teachings, such as on solidarity and subsidiarity (the idea that local institutions closest to people should provide social services). But an overview of Catholic church leaders in the National Catholic Register (July 10) finds that church leaders have grown more critical of the EU, especially as it is seen as increasingly secularist.

The blog Counting Religion in Britain (July), a monthly roundup of new statistical sources, cites an online survey by the polling firm Populous that confirms the patterns shown elsewhere: Christians were disproportionately in favor of leaving the EU while non-Christians were “remainers.” The survey uniquely replicated questions that it had asked last February and then compared them with responses post-Brexit. In contrast to the frequent claims that the Brexit vote has increased public hostility toward immigrants and other outsiders, the survey shows that the rate of British saying that Muslims created major problems for the UK and the world actually fell in the period between the pre- and post-Brexit fieldwork. There were also modest reductions in those with negative views toward other religions.

(The Tablet,; Counting Religion in Britain,; National Catholic Register,