There’s nothing Christian – or in any way moral – about throwing away our hard-won democracy in the drooling pursuit of European political union
Adrian Hilton of the excellent Archbishop Cranmer blog has a very noteworthy piece in Reimagining Europe, making the rare (but very welcome) argument against the European Union from a Christian perspective.
Unlike many politicians and most bishops and other circulating elites, I don’t equate historic Europe with the political civic empire called the EU, and it seems that my desire for UK secession from this artificial construct makes me ‘un-Christian’.
How welcome these words are. The lazy but insidious notion that the continent of Europe and the political construct known as the European Union are one and the same thing is hugely damaging yet near-universally held. People worry about “leaving Europe” as if by leaving one particular (very expensive) geopolitical club, Britain would literally be levering herself away from the continent of Europe, walling ourselves off in Fortress Britain, when this is clearly not the case.
But the lazy belief that British membership of the European Union is somehow as logical and essential as our geographical location within the continent of Europe is widespread, and so it is unsurprising to see it mindlessly repeated by the Church of England.
The same goes for the risible idea that leaving the EU would be to cease any kind of friendship or cooperation with the other countries of Europe, another argument commonly deployed by europhiles, as Hilton recounts:
“So we stop working with our neighbours; finding common ground; influencing for good – not my idea of Christian,” [Lord Deben] tweeted to me a few weeks ago. Like Jeremy Corbyn, it seems, I’m locked into an otiose 1970s view of the world. Everything has changed, and I just haven’t realised that sovereign nations can no longer work effectively with their neighbours on matters such as trade, taxation and regulation: “Most big international decisions (are) made between EU and US,” Lord Deben asserted, before needling: “Why do you want Britain excluded?”
You see how the caricature goes? The EU is ‘top table’ (though it really isn’t, but that’s another blog post), and Christians who favour UK-EU secession become isolationist, xenophobic, un-(anti?)-Christian ‘little Englanders’. He didn’t say ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’, but he might as well have done. My ‘idea of Christian’ is self-evidently blinded by nationalistic bigotry and naively fomenting apocalypse. No matter how much you try to reason back with gracious statistics, humble facts and philosophical insights, the inference is clear and crushing: there is no place in the Church of the Enlightenment for those who identify with the narrow, sectarian parochialism of a national democratic polity. No informed, intelligent or discerning Christian could possibly be so spiritually witless or theologically illiterate as to advocate withdrawal from the EU.
But of course there is nothing Christian about allowing the United Kingdom – our flawed but essentially decent democracy – to be subsumed into an explicitly political supranational union which is the peculiar, flawed vision of founding fathers who – unlike their American predecessors – are largely unknown and unloved, because their elitist vision for technocratic governance so utterly fails to resonate in the hearts of Europe’s citizens.
Neither is there anything “moral” or Christian about divesting ourselves of judicial, legislative and executive sovereignty, only to slowly and stealthily transfer and pool those powers into an entity with which most of us feel absolutely no heartfelt love, affiliation or loyalty.
Or as Hilton so eloquently puts it:
I support the Leave campaign not because I desire economic isolation or social exclusion from the Continent, but to extricate the UK from the unaccountable elitist pursuit of unending politico-economic integration at the expense of democracy, accountability and liberty, which, to me, are perfectly sound biblical principles.
Ask a europhile how these principles are to be preserved in a European Union of relentless, unapologetic political integration and you will be met with a very long silence.
Ask a europhile how they plan to preserve democracy when they undermine the nation state at every turn, and give its powers to a supranational organisation which commands no feeling of affinity, and you will get tumbleweeds. Because they have no answer. Either they have not thought the issue through, or – far more frightening – they have thought about the ramifications for our democracy, but simply don’t care.
We, the governed, ask ‘Who governs?’, and the answer is lost in a pathology of bureaucracy and unfathomable institutional structures which seem purposely designed to convey a façade of democracy while shielding the executive elite government from the inconvenience of elections. We are governed by a wealthy, supranational, technocratic oligarchy, and no popular vote can remove them or change the direction of policy. This might fulfil Lord Deben’s apprehension of righteous government, and I am sensible to the fellow-feelings of European humanity in its unanimous yearning to eradicate civil strife and internecine war. But all I see are disparate peoples desperate for the restoration of national identity against the failures of forced continental integration.
UKIP. Front National. The Danish People’s Party. Jobbik. The Freedom Party. Finns. All across Europe, eurosceptic parties – some mainstream, some more extreme and less pleasant – are flourishing because of a growing number of citizens who have had enough of enforced European political unity and remote government-by-technocrat, and who would much rather that meaningful power returned from Brussels to the level where they feel a sense of belonging – be that their region, province or country.
Too often – at least in Britain, with the media’s patronising and dismissive coverage of UKIP leading up to the European and general elections – we explain away these populist movements, or belittle their support base by suggesting that they are all economically left-behind losers or curtain-twitching village racists.
And it’s partly true, only not as an insult. If you are a well paid professional in rude financial health you can better afford to be a consumer rather than a thinking citizen. You can use your vote to signal your virtue (anyone but UKIP!) or advance your lazily thought out utopian daydreams, with little fear of the consequences. But those of our fellow citizens on the sharp edge of globalisation – those whose livelihoods are impacted by deindustrialisation, new technology, outsourcing and the information economy – tend to see things differently.
This doesn’t mean that we should adopt every nativist, protectionist policy that comes along – because barriers to trade are never the right answer. But it does mean that we should acknowledge that the eurosceptic parties of the Right and the Left are at least asking some important questions that the mainstream parties, trapped in their centrist consensus groupthink, have consistently failed to do.
And too often the Church has sided with the establishment, reflecting the voice of the political class and the prosperous middle class rather than the informed citizenry or the imperilled working class. Worse still, it has done so while shamelessly dressing itself in the robes of enlightened internationalism, progressivism and virtue.
If nothing else, it is encouraging to see that thanks to the likes of Adrian Hilton, they will no longer be allowed to do so unchallenged.
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