Brexit, the bishops and the rich fool

Oct 1, 2019 by

by Martin Davie:

The bishops’ joint statement about Brexit.

Following the events that took place in the Supreme Court and Parliament last week the Bishops of the Church of England have issued a joint statement about Brexit in which they make four key points:

  • First, that the result of the 2016 referendum ‘should be honoured.’
  • Secondly, that in debates about Brexit we ‘should speak to others with respect’ and should also listen, especially to the poor, the marginalised and ‘those whose voices are often not heard in our national conversation.’
  • Thirdly, politicians should ‘adhere rigorously to the rule of law ‘and everyone should ‘respect and uphold the impartiality of the courts and our judiciary.’
  • Fourthly, we must renew the structures in our national life that ‘enable us ‘to love one another.’ [1]

These four points are unexceptionable, if rather lacking in detail (what exactly does it mean, for example to ‘honour’ the result of the referendum, or to ‘renew’ the structures of our national life?) and one has to acknowledge that getting 118 bishops to agree a statement on Brexit was no mean feat.

The presupposition behind the Brexit debate.

Nevertheless, the statement is seriously flawed because the bishops have failed to address the most fundamental issue facing our nation at the moment, an issue which the Brexit debate has ignored ever since the original referendum campaign back in 2016.

To understand why this is the case we need to note that the presupposition shared by those on both sides of the debate about Brexit is that the key issue facing our country at the moment has to do with economics.

Although the debate has also touched on issues of national identity and national sovereignty, at the heart of the Brexit debate is a division of opinion about what will be most economically beneficial for the future of this country. On the one hand there are those who think we have the best chance of economic prosperity if we leave the European Union and make our own new trading arrangements with other nations, and on the other hand there are those who think we have the best chance of economic prosperity in both the short and long term if we remain within it.

From a Christian perspective the question of what future political arrangements are most like to bring about economic prosperity is an important one. This is because people in this country, as in all countries, need food, clothing, housing, education, jobs, healthcare and so forth, and we need the means to enable them to have these things. In particular, we need to take whatever steps we can to ensure that these things are available to those who are in especial need because of the place where they live, or because of their personal circumstances.

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