The European Union Does Not Promote The Neighbourliness Preached By Jesus

Bishop Robert Innes - EU Referendum - Remain - Brexit - European Union - Christianity

As yet another bishop declares his support for keeping Britain in the EU, the last gasp strategy of the intellectually and morally defeated Remain campaign starts to become clear

More hand-wringing, wheedling declarations that Britain should sacrifice our own democracy and national interests in order to “save Europe from itself”, over at the Reimagining Europe blog.

Robert Innes, bishop of the Diocese in Europe writes:

At the heart of Jesus’ teaching is an ethic of neighbourliness. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, he says. And in the parable of the Good Samaritan he stretches the idea of the neighbour to include even those in close by regions with whom we have traditional rivalries.

Ah, so we are going to be treated to another rendition of that glib assertion that because “friendship” and “co-operation” sound like nice Christian things, it automatically follows that Britain should sacrifice our democracy and dissolve ourselves into the embryonic common European state.

This is based on the blinkered view that co-operation between friendly democracies is only possible when coordinated by a powerful supranational regional government, something which would come as a great surprise to Christians in Africa, Asia and the Americas, whose countries seem to be able to co-operate with one another on environmental, energy, economic, defence and intelligence matters without becoming vassals of a large regional organisation with slobbering aspirations of statehood.

Bishop Innes continues:

Being a good neighbour has costs. We may be expected to come to our neighbour’s aid. Frankly, at the moment Europe needs British help. The whole continent is struggling with migration. Debt and unemployment afflict the southern states. And these are generating populist sentiments which threaten us all. The European Institutions in Brussels have benefited from a good deal of British administrative and political expertise in the past. In order for them to work well and to promote the good of the whole continent, they need that expertise now. We have contributed democratic principles, a sense of humanity, tolerance and practical common sense over many decades. These are loved and valued by our European neighbours.

From where I sit, there is an awful lot riding on the Referendum Vote. It feels, from Brussels, like a vote that could determine not just the future of Britain but the future of the European continent, for decades to come. I have already posted my vote. There’s no secret that it was for ‘Remain’. Not everyone in my diocese will agree with me, and I respect that. But I hope that the remaining days of the campaign will be marked by high quality information and truly informed debate. I hope there will be a massive voting turnout. And, yes, I hope that Britain will stay in the European Union and help our whole continent find its way through difficult times and into a new future.

Having been comprehensively routed in the argument about democracy (though to be fair, the EU apologists, knowing their weak position, barely put up a fight) and seen the polls gradually turn towards Brexit as people tire of the scaremongering and pessimism of the Remain campaign, we seem to be moving into a new phase of the referendum.

It now seems to be the contention of some Remainers that the EU may well do us little or no good whatsoever, but that it is our duty to remain lashed to the mast nonetheless out of blind solidarity with our European allies. We saw Jonathan Freedland advancing just such a case in the Guardian this week, essentially arguing that British democracy is a small and trivial thing, a worthless trinket and a small price to pay to stop the squabbling countries of Europe from going at each others’ throats.

Of course, this is insidious nonsense. The European Union undermines democracy in all of its member states, not just Britain. That’s what it was designed to do – become an increasingly powerful supranational government of Europe by slowly and steadily accumulating more powers and hollowing out the democracy and decision-making competencies of the member states. And we see a growing antipathy toward the EU project across Europe, not just in Britain and not just in the traditionally eurosceptic countries, with France now holding a more unfavourable view of the EU than we do.

In this modern context, stubbornly voting to remain in the European Union in defiance of the damage it is doing to our democracies as well as the social and economic harm being wrought by the EU’s single currency and migration policy is the height of irresponsibility. If you see four friends stumbling drunk out of a bar and walking toward their parked car, you don’t hop in the back seat and go along for the ride, you beg them not to drive and call them a taxi instead. And so it is with the EU – there is no good reason why we should march in lockstep with the rest of the EU in a direction which can only lead to more voter apathy, civil unrest and socio-economic misery – least of all because a very superficial interpretation of Christian teaching suggests that it is the right-on, progressive thing to do.

Interestingly, Robert Innes’ article is currently unavailable at Reimagining Europe – perhaps he encountered hostility to his blinkered europhilia from members of his diocese, or perhaps even he realised the fatuous over-simplicity of his article.

But this is an argument which is coming up again and again, the Hail Mary pass of the Remain campaign – that the EU may well be terrible, but that somehow we owe it to the other member states to stick around until the bitter end. It is a weak argument from a campaign based entirely on weak arguments, and if the Remain camp continue to push this defeatist narrative it suggests that they really are in trouble.


Postscript: More on the Christian case for Brexit herehereherehere and here.


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