I suspect discussions over the EU referendum will continue for a long time to come and I would not be surprised if we were to see more shocks and twists in the saga during that time. As far as I am concerned, it has been a long haul since I began looking more deeply into the subject (check here for my seven posts on the referendum and here for my initial aftermath post). While I can’t promise, I propose here to tie up some loose ends and then to close the book on the subject, at least for the time being.
While the referendum discussion went on for a long time, I am of a view that a lot of the debate has not been particularly helpful and this has been confined to soundbites, scare mongering, half truths, down right lies and too often appealing to the worst instincts in human kind, although there has been some helpful input and careful analysis too. I have been a Euroskeptic ever since we joined the Common Market in 1973, and while I have seen some good developments, overall I have not been impressed by how things have developed (all of which I have written about). Despite that, my mind was not made up to vote to Leave until rather late in the day and only upon examining the arguments for in and out. One reason for that is that I had qualms that the British people, who have to a large extent abandoned its Christian roots, would be able to adequately handle the transition from in to out. I also lacked confidence in the politicians to lead in the case of an out vote. I later on got exposed to notions that because British democracy was flawed we needed the EU to safeguard workers rights and protect the environment.
As far as immigration was concerned this was never a major issue for me although I realise it was for some and some of what I saw was unsavoury. I have done much practically to support immigrants, especially asylum seekers (and still do), and readers can check this out I should add my stance has never been anti-Europe, just anti-EU. In the end, having weighed the arguments, I decided to support “Leave”, mainly by my writings. I found myself reading all sorts of material and commenting on what I read. This often led to online exchanges with those who agreed with me and more often with those who didn’t. Much of it was helpful but not all, and I found people could easily be upset even if that was not the intention. Often people see things through different lenses. What one person sees as a highly significant fact to support or come to a view, another sees as inconsequential. Sometimes it got heated, neither side listening to or respecting what the other had to say and too often vilifying each other for holding wrong views, regardless whether they do or don’t.
The biggest shock as far as I was concerned was that Leave won! Just as shocking was the adverse reaction to the result from all quarters and we are experiencing that phase right now. One disturbing aspect is the reported cases of racism and xenophobia we are now seeing, all quite unnecessary. What really surprised me was the deep hurt many felt about the “wrong” decision having been made. Some gave forthright vent to their feelings by making them known on social media and often this gave way to unhelpful exchanges and even acrimonious fall outs. I have been astounded by the entrenched positions by both sides, how either side can be sensitive to criticism and mockery and react accordingly, and the need to think before speaking to avoid needless falling out. One of the worrying things that need to change is the huge split we are seeing in the nation and the need for healing – as one friend said: we need to be building bridges, not walls. What also seems the case is many voted for the wrong reasons, but is that not something we have to factor in, in a democracy? Given the issues that were at stake, I still feel holding a referendum was the right thing to do.
Another thing that took me aback was the number of Christian friends who supported the Remain case, and this led me to question my beliefs – a good thing. While my natural constituency would tend to support Leave, some of this can be put down to social media tending to attract social activists and those with left leaning views (who in the main support Remain) it was nevertheless a wake up call to me to be careful when arguing my case on theological grounds, although I still subscribe to the view that sound theology should and hopefully does inform my community activism. Despite so much adverse reaction to the result and qualms about many things, I still hold that the vote to Remain was the right outcome. What needs to change is for there to be charity and understanding on either side, realising none, however learned, has the full answer and nowhere has the Almighty declared whether we should remain or leave.
It is quite evident that as far as the majority of the establishment is concerned, this was not the result they wanted. What is more sinister, it would not surprise me if ways are found to ignore the result (as has happened in the past). I note for example there is an online petition going round calling for a second referendum and already two million people have signed. Unsurprisingly, the Scottish National Party has made good their promise to call for a second referendum on Scottish Independence given the majority of Scots voted Remain. I would strongly oppose both these calls (even at the risk of upsetting the powerful and Scotland breaking away from the Union) and while I have many qualms, not least the feelings of unease in the country including the sort of government that will lead the UK, as the people have spoken, their decision needs respecting. Anything else would be a mockery of our democracy and would add to rather than take away from the unrest we are presently seeing.