As I sat outside the polling station on 23rd June 2016, I thought of my mother’s adage again: “Don’t make sacrifices with other people’s wood.”
A Leave vote was, most people accepted, likely to cause some months of economic dislocation as we adjusted to life outside the EU. Could any more economic pain be justifiable after six years of austerity? But, I argued to myself, perhaps it would be worth it to remedy the democratic deficit of the European Union. Leaving the EU would restore sovereignty to our Parliament and jurisdiction to our courts. With the polls closing in 10 minutes, I got up and went inside to cast my vote to Leave the EU.
I profoundly regret that decision.
Naive faith and big money
The events of the last three and a half years have opened my eyes not just to the political implications of our nation’s fateful decision but also the spiritual battle that is now being waged.
First to crumble was my belief that Brexit had anything to do with strengthening the UK parliament and courts. It was bad enough to witness May and Johnson being dragged through the courts and division lobbies in order to secure Parliament a say over the Brexit process and scrutiny over the final deal. But what really shocked me out of my naive faith that Leave was a vote for the greater democratic good was the sickening ‘Enemies of the People’ front page in the Mail. Whatever else Brexit was about, it was not the strengthening of our constitutional democracy.
The Leave campaign was largely funded by five of Britain’s richest businessmen. But it is not just the bankrolling of the Leave campaign that points to the influence of Mammon on Brexit. After all, the Remain side did not lack for financial support from wealthy pro-EU business leaders. More significant is the purpose of Brexit from the point of view of those who have been its most ardent advocates inside and outside government. Why would financially savvy people like those in the ERG (European Research Group) promote a course of action that independent economists predict will reduce the UK’s GDP per capita? Answer: because they know that their own wealth will increase in a ‘Singapore-on-Thames’ post-Brexit economy.
I have yet to hear any leading Brexiteer attempt to argue that a deregulated, super-competitive UK economy will benefit the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Of course not - it is not intended to do so. It is a bitter irony that these clever people have managed to persuade those who have suffered most from the failures of unbridled capitalism, to vote with such passion for further deregulation. Turkeys and Christmas come to mind, along with Jesus’s wry observation that “to those who have will more be given, and to those who have not, even what they have will be taken away."
Lies and deception
Where to start on the catalogue of lies and broken promises that have spewed from the mouth of Boris Johnson et al? Our Prime Minister once said: “No Conservative government could or should sign up to a border down the Irish Sea.” Or what about Daniel Hannan, who said during the Leave campaign: “Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market". It is not surprising that so many people, not least the DUP, feel betrayed and conned.
It is not that spin and lies have never before emanated from the UK government. But, Johnson’s chief of staff, Dominic Cummings, has taken this to a new level.
Thank God for Peter Oborne, who has so clearly and courageously exposed the subversion of once-venerated media outlets like the BBC by Number 10. Oborne’s recent interview on Channel 4 News led to one of the few moments of light relief in this sad and sorry story when #DowningStreetSource started trending on Twitter with hilarious spoof statements purporting to come from that duplicitous source.
At the time of the Referendum some Christian commentators were suggesting that the spiritual problem lay with Europe and that leaving the EU would release us to fulfil our God-given destiny as a nation. There were some colourful arguments put forward, pressing the Book of Revelation into service to suggest that the EU was paving the way for the anti-Christ. This was, of course, a minority view even among Christians, but I knew several people who told me that they voted Leave for precisely this reason.
I do not want to disrespect people who hold such beliefs sincerely but it seems to me that a literalist interpretation of the scriptural references to Rome has left them tilting at the windmill of yesterday’s anti-Christ while ignoring the super states that are actually vying for political and economic domination in the modern world. When I remind myself that to be ‘anti’ the poor and marginalised is to be anti-Christ, it seems to me that a post-Brexit world – where we are dependent on the USA and weakened in the face of an emboldened Russia – is more worrying than belonging to the European Union. In any case, the idea of ever-closer union and a federal Europe always seemed to me more an aspirational dream of elite Europhiles than a real target that might be achieved any time soon.
One of the biggest challenges for me in this Brexit process has been to pray blessing on those who are my natural ‘enemies’. Sometimes I have found this so hard that all I can do is wonder what a blessing might look like for Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings or Nigel Farage.
For me, it is an ongoing spiritual battle not to hate the people who are promoting policies that will do harm to people I care about. But I have learned that the knack is to discern the spiritual coup that has led to the hijacking of the Brexit project. The truth is that we are not wrestling with flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in high places.
God opposes the proud and lifts up the humble and meek. So when I am tempted to despair about the chances of us avoiding a Brexit that is a million miles away from the one I voted for, I take heart. The spirit of God is more powerful than any that are influencing this Brexit crisis, and operates at an indiscernible quantum level bringing about changes that no human being can predict or prevent. He will work with us to bring forth good. So there is ample reason to be hopeful and joyful, whatever happens.
Rachel Boulton is a teacher and former researcher in business and finance. Originally from London, she is now based in Liverpool, where she worships at an Anglican Cathedral
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