Europe: Leave or Remain?

BLOGEurope: Leave or Remain?

Given that the imminent referendum over Europe is about nothing less than Britain’s future, it is alarming that neither the ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ groups speak with any confidence about that future. Indeed, much of the argument – whether by politicians, economists or experts on migration – seems to be on the basis that ‘our uncertainties are less uncertain than your uncertainties’. It’s hardly compelling.

Here I must acknowledge my personal unease about the European Union. Something has gone very badly wrong with it. We have somehow – largely without consultation – acquired a massive, faceless and impersonal bureaucracy which straddles our continent and entangles it with red tape. A lot has been made of the EU’s habit of seeking to regulate such things as the wattage of kettles. Well, I could tolerate that if I felt it was dealing effectively and compassionately with the ‘weightier matters of the law’ such as refugees, immigration and economic support to struggling nations. No, the problem is that the EU meddles in unimportant matters and either shuns the big ones or bungles them. It is the embodiment of incompetent officialdom: intimidating the weak yet ignored by the powerful.

As a forgiving man I would be prepared to be reconciled to the EU if I sensed any repentance and desire for reform. Yet the impersonal figures that govern from Brussels seems to have no desire for change but, instead, are unrepentantly pushing forward their arrogant project of an empire – a ‘United States of Europe’ – extending from the tip of Scotland to Turkey’s eastern borders. Now, even without invoking cryptic passages in the Book of Revelation, that rings alarm bells with me: very few empires have been a blessing to the poor, the weak or the Christian.

The goal of a united Europe, set out amidst the rubble from the Second World War, has long seemed so noble and honourable as to be beyond criticism. Yet idealism must always be balanced by realism; particularly with that distinctive but necessary Christian insight that human beings are fallen so that even the best ambitions can easily be turned to evil. Most tyrannies were started by someone determined to create a perfect society. We have failed to keep watch and the result is the present unlikable and threatening bureaucracy. If the ‘Leave’ vote wins then the EU has only itself to blame.

If the vote is that we remain in Europe, then we must not leave matters there. The European Union needs to be reformed and its powers and ambitions firmly curtailed. And if that reforming is not done with care then I’m afraid the day is imminent when, like the tower of Babel that it so much resembles, the European Union will spectacularly collapse in such a way that a lot of people will get hurt. That, at least, is certain.

Revd Canon

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