Pope Francis: Right on the money, post-Brexit fall-out

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In two perceptive speeches in 2014 and 2015, Pope Francis warned that treating people as mere "cogs in a machine" has disastrous consequences – and the Brexit result shows how right he was, writes Austen Ivereigh.

Pope Francis' comments on the return flight from Armenia last Sunday night are some of the most perceptive of any world leader in response to Brexit.

"Give more independence, give greater freedom to the countries of the (European) Union. Think of another form of union, be creative," the Pope told journalists, adding that "something is not working in this massive Union."

The Pope is not a leaver, but a reformer. The crisis in the EU did not mean "we throw out the baby with the bath water," he went on to say. But he pointed to the rise of secessionist movements across the continent as symptomatic of a deeper malaise that must urgently be addressed.

He has identified that malaise in two major speeches that now, in the light of Brexit, seem sadly prophetic.

As Pope Francis warned in his 2014 address in Strasbourg: "In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful."

In its final weeks, the referendum conversation was not about the EU at all, but about the country Britain has become, about the gulf between north and south, the well-off and the poor, about over-strained public resources, the shortage of homes, and the precarious jobs market.

But rather than address those issues directly, the Leave campaign sold the idea that abandoning Europe would solve them.

It was the language of disaffection, the anger of exclusion.

Pope Francis in his 2015 Charlemagne speech spoke of the need to create economic models that do not just serve the few but ordinary people as a whole, moving from "a liquid economy to a social economy" that invests in job creation and training. He went on to speak of the just distribution of wealth and work, of the need to create "dignified and well-paying jobs, especially for our young people."

It didn't happen, and the losers from the liquid economy turned on their rulers. The Leave campaign, despite its own internal contradictions now coming to the fore, successfully created a narrative that persuaded the left-behind that they could "take control," get their country back, reduce immigration, and invest millions in local services that currently seep away to distant bureaucrats.

Seen from Castle Point in Essex (73 percent for Leave), Camden in London (75 percent for Remain) is another country, with its insane house prices and $US100-dollar-a-head restaurants and waiters and customers speaking in euro-English.

In his Charlemagne speech in May, Pope Francis said that what Europe must now do is "promote an integration that finds in solidarity a way of acting, a means of making history."

Solidarity, he said, was not charity, but "a means of creating opportunities for all the inhabitants of our cities - and of so many other cities - to live with dignity."

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Pope Francis puts his finger on the post-Brexit challenge (Crux)

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