In my last blog, in December, I observed the stalemate over Brexit...
Unless one is totally committed to one side of the Brexit debate or the other it is hard not to conclude that there are signs of political madness in contemporary British politics.
The first sign came when David Cameron called the referendum in 2016 and failed to recognise the way in which it would divide the nation as deeply as it has. He did this to placate his right wingers who have always opposed our membership of the EU. He failed to recognise legitimate criticisms of the EU and to commit to a long term campaign of reform of the EU. Then to conduct a referendum campaign that failed to educate the voters as to the likely implications of how they might vote fuelled the madness that shaped the national debates.
The voters were sucked into this madness if and when they failed to recognise the threats to our national security from Russia that will not be diminished by the weakening of our relationships with our EU neighbours. Similarly, Brexit will not help our cooperation with them in coping with floods of refugees and reversing global warming. Voter madness was also evident in those motivated by a desire to reduce immigration from the EU when we desperately need doctors, nurses, skilled labour in the construction industry and unskilled labour to pick crops that will otherwise rot in the fields.
Theresa May inherited some of Cameron’s madness when she triggered Article 50 prematurely without recognising the complex issues such as the Northern Ireland border before she began the negotiations. She has paid the penalty for that, trying to negotiate Brexit whilst there is no majority in Parliament for any of the options. Her right wingers have threatened to remove her without having sufficient support to do that. Indeed, there would seem to be no majority in the Commons for any of the options. Some back a Canada type of trade deal, others prefer we remain in the European Economic Area like Norway and whilst another group wish we could just cancel it all and remain in the EU.
The Prime Minister also reflected this madness by calling an election in 2017 when she had a working majority only to lose it and become dependent on the support of the ten DUP MPs who have made her task more difficult. Worse still she appointed some people to Ministerial roles who lacked loyalty to her leadership and an apparent inability to do their jobs competently. Nor has she adequately communicated what is going on in the negotiations so that we understand the apparent lack of progress.
The point here is not to argue a case for one side of the Brexit debate or the other but to recognise the paralysis in our political system that is hindering progress on many other important issues, making our politicians – of all parties and perspectives on Brexit – look unworthy of our trust. Those who advocate a second referendum must first show how the voters are to be fully informed so that we really understand all aspects of the issue and are enabled to vote for the good of the nation and our relationships with our European neighbours.
From a Christian perspective, the need for grace is obvious. That won’t make a complex issue any simpler but it would help us to listen to those with whom we disagree with some humility and respect. The madness that has characterised the Brexit debate and possibly also the negotiations is the result of a lack of grace. Readers, please pray for more grace and less madness in our politics.