The EU Referendum – an alternative perspective

Following on from my last blog posting on the subject, I have invited a good Christian friend who leads an active church in my town, and wants to make a positive difference to those in need, to present his views on the forthcoming referendum, and thereby help provide a balance, mindful that we have a number of friends in common, still trying to make up their minds on how they should vote. While his views don’t align with mine concerning several significant aspects, we have at least enjoyed some robust discussions on many of those differences. While we may end up cancelling each others votes, we would want those who do vote on this important issue, to do so having considered the arguments both for remaining and leaving…

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I’ve never written a guest blog before…and I am grateful to John for the invitation to do so. He has asked me to share a few thoughts from the ‘dark side’ – the remain side. I was going to say “pro-EU” but it would take a huge leap to say that the EU was exactly as it should be, and that nothing needs changing. There is still plenty of work to be done.

I shall nail my colours early….I am British and I am European. I have lived and worked in Germany, and done Christian mission and teaching with churches in Austria, Switzerland, Germany (Unified version and West), Denmark and the Netherlands. I had a great time and would not hesitate to do more – but by travelling from sunny Southend. I love my nation…but I love other nations too.

To me Europe is not “over there”…it’s here! Go to any University in the UK and you will see Europeans learning together. Walk into our big cities and you will see European businesses… British, German, French, Dutch etc.  We love our German cars, our French foods, Italian coffee and we buy our Swedish furniture, and the Poles and the Romanians build our houses…and they do it very well and quicker generally. We ARE European.

However, one of my big concerns is this creeping appeal of nationalism, a nationalistic spirit. It’s an old empire view. It’s the thought that this ‘great’ nation can rise again from the dust of the EU years, and take its centre place once again on the world stage without being part of the EU club. My personal view is “Er…no, sorry we are not THAT big or important any more!”

At best you have people who feel swamped by being Europe – I can understand that if they don’t see Europe the same way I do. Then you have the stereotypical “I don’t like all these foreigners” they exist in huge numbers and these folks are usually of a certain age. Then you get the “keep the foreigners out! Britain is for the British!” These are more worrying as they stir anger. Then you have the far-right, who are a nightmare waiting to happen God forbid. You also get many who believe every word the Brexit or leave guys say because they say it with passion.  That’s true they are passionate, brash and loud But there is an old preachers phrase. “Weak point…shout louder!”

The desire for some sort of national supremacy is EXACTLY what leads to fragmentation within nations and between nations with tit-for-tat behaviour, action and counter action…and let’s be honest we are not a great nation anymore. However, we ARE a substantial influence; we ARE a force for good (sometimes) we ARE a generous nation in helping others (although “more wisely please!”  would be my plea) What we are NOT is a huge manufacturing nation. We used to build for the world, but no more. We are a very successful satellite manufacturing nation…we build well for overseas owned companies eg cars, steel (maybe) Our manufacturing exports are not on par with our competitors. We have huge services overseas eg banking, finance, insurance and this we do well too. The manufacturing and exporting companies need trading agreements and effective trading partners. These companies need a stable investment environment and they need stable currency exchange. Otherwise….they move.

The world is a very different place from when the EU first started (which was at the UK’s initiative and encouragement). The world is a global village and what happens in one part of the world affects all the others. The saying is that America sneezes and we catch the cold. Just look at the financial crisis. I guess there must be a saying for China too…although I can’t think of one without risking being stereotypical.

Personally, I do not believe we can operate as an autonomous nation that is unaffected by these world-wide events…and I believe being part of a strong trading bloc is one way of protecting ourselves. There has been much said about establishing new trade agreements. Well… a lot has been said by everyone EXCEPT those who know trading. Whilst I don’t believe we would be at the back of the queue I DO think this will be more problematic than the Leave groups indicate. I do not believe the world owes us a good agreement. Especially if our leaving triggers downward changes in their own finances too.

We have already experienced a slowdown in inward investment, the pound is weaker and thus losing potential job-creation. Fewer investors will risk the UK post Brexit…and these are happening even NOW. Investment needs a stable environment and for all the romanticism…it IS a leap into the dark. No-one else from other nations has said “Yes! WE will give you favourable trading agreements!” Some in the Leave side are hoping that if we shout positively enough they will just happen. The world does not work that way. So I believe I have economic reasons why I wish us to remain. Jobs, livelihoods and the ability for individuals and families to provide for themselves. I AM concerned about another down-turn…not a good time to be on your own with no agreements in place. What about Norway, Switzerland and Canada? I hear you ask. Yes…what about them. Norway STILL pays to the EU and it’s NOT a member. They HAVE to accept Shengen agreement or they don’t get the trade. They still have to accept the EU regulations too. Switzerland has given China access to its markets but cannot gain access to China for 15 years!! Some agreement! Canada…is STILL being worked out! We will not wake up the morning after a Brexit vote and sleepwalk into really good agreements. Even Brexit-ers admit it will take years to unpick and then redraw new agreements. What will happen to investment during this time? The other trading nations will have the upper hand because we need them and their agreement more than they need us.

So much more to say on this but I thought I would also address some of the spiritual issues that have been raised by some. By wishing to remain am I encouraging the rise of the anti-christ? You would think so the way some talk.

I am not daft, nor spiritually naive. Does a group like the EU have the kingdom of God and its increase at heart….I doubt it very much…but then neither does the eastern bloc trading group…the African bloc…the North American bloc…etc etc. Our own nation is not exactly well place in the Christian league of revived nations according to yesterday’s reports.  I think some have imposed the end-times scenario on all this and come up with the EU. IF there is a physical manifestation of the kingdom of darkness do I believe that this Court of St James (us) has somehow being singled out by God as the only nation in Europe that can withstand its evil presence?  No! The ONLY opposition is the church, Gods people (not buildings)…in any and every nation. I don’t believe God protects us at the cost of His people in Germany, France etc etc. Otherwise we should be saying to ALL Christians in all these nations “Get over here! We will save you! Come out of the evil EU! God has blessed us more than your own nation!” More EU immigration? One of the most oppressive nations in the world? China. THE largest gathering of God’s church in the world…China! I know there is a world system and a spirit of the age that is opposed to the kingdom of God…but I do not believe it has to have a visa and our permission to get here.

There is much spiritual scaremongering. Threats of earthquakes etc. Now Jesus made it quite clear there WOULD be wars…rumours of wars…earthquakes, famine etc etc as a prelude to end time scenarios – whatever they will eventually look like. But can we please pull back from the “we are special – we are different and when Jesus said that He didn’t mean Great Britain.” It is the spiritual equivalent of the nationalistic spirit that is being bandied about. Don’t get me wrong. I love this nation and I want this nation to know Jesus. But then I also want the peoples of Germany, France, etc etc to know Jesus too.

The ONLY nation I believe God sees is the Holy nation of believers (from every nation, tribe and tongue) I don’t think the Holy Spirit checks which border He is crossing (and neither does the spirit of this world either…sorry)

So much more to say….

I am in!….I AM looking for change in the EU…I want to BLESS other nations…I am NOT nationalistic…I want to see ALL the peoples of Europe to be able to live at peace and with provision…and also bless other nations in need. My concern for our nation is that those who are leading the Leave are very comfortable financially and would be protected against a downturn. They are ‘here today and gone tomorrow’ politicians – as Robin Day would say. I believe a leave vote will move us towards the right-wing politically – I believe workers’ rights would then be undermined and removed, and NHS would be completely privatised – those promoting or financing the Leave campaign have already said so.

I believe the Leave campaign tell lies about costs and make more threats and play on fear and dormant racism about the risk from immigration than the remain guys with their fear tactics…it has NOT been a good campaign by either group.

I hope we stay in. For good reasons not because I don’t love my nation.

Any questions?

Thanks John   for the opportunity to share. It’s not a complete, comprehensive (or even fully coherent) view. But hopefully helpful, or at least stimulating for further thought before 23rd.

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