So, the people have voted to reverse the decision of the 1975 referendum and leave the EU.
That won’t happen in a hurry because the leaving process will take at least two years and after that any subsequent negotiations for access to the EU single market could take much longer. But the ramifications for UK politics are just as serious. All the political parties and their leaders (except UKIP) backed Remain. A substantial majority of MPs did the same. So did the Confederation of British Industry and a majority of trade union leaders.
There is now a gulf between the people and the political establishment. Britain has a leadership crisis. The Prime Minister understands this and has indicated that he will stand down in three months’ time when a new party leader has been elected. None of the other leaders are in a stronger position. Jeremy Corbyn does not have the loyal support of a significant number of his parliamentary party but no obvious alternatives stand out. There are also signs that Labour has lost ground in its core support amongst working class voters in the north.
If ever there was a need for committed prayer for the nation it is now.
Tim Farron has so few MPs that he doesn’t have the clout Nick Clegg had as deputy Prime Minister. Just as serious is the fact that Scotland voted strongly for Remain and Alec Salmond, the former SNP leader, is already calling for a new referendum to take Scotland out of the UK. (Read David Robertson's response here)
The nation is deeply divided and restoring national unity is urgently needed. But who will lead this if the political leaders lack popular trust? Does the Church have sufficient moral and spiritual leadership to fill the vacuum until a new generation of respected political leaders emerges? Loving your neighbour like the Good Samaritan is needed. But has Britain becomes so secular that this has become meaningless for most people?
While their leaders would probably disagree, neither side of the referendum campaign offered a positive vision for Britain’s future. The predominant argument for leaving the EU was about immigration. Xenophobic fear is not a credible basis on which to unite the nation, nor are the personal ambitions of individuals leading the Leave campaign. The Remain campaign was no better, majoring negatively on the damage leaving would do to the British economy and how it would hit our pockets. George Osborne’s threat of an emergency budget to increase taxes and cut public spending was foolish because he should have known there would be no majority in Parliament to approve it. Rarely did one hear a vision for Britain playing a strong leadership role in the EU to reform it and restore the founding values, like subsidiarity, that have been lost.
If ever there was a need for committed prayer for the nation it is now. At a crucial point in the Second World War, King George called the nation to prayer and the calm weather during the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk followed. It will be a prayer for a new generation of leaders who have the moral and spiritual qualities to pull the nation together and unite us around a vision that is about how we can play a positive role in the world for the good of all people, especially the poorest and most powerless. The words of the Magnificat (Luke 1) come to mind.
Above image courtesy of speedpropertybuyers.co.uk