Policy differences are normal in democratic politics but Brexit...
Where is Britain going? Have we lost our way in our preoccupation with leaving the EU?
The news is full of silly squabbles. The whole Brexit agenda has been largely negative and xenophobic. Politicians fantasise about a glorious future free from the constraints of working with our neighbours, forgetting the many that died fighting two terrible wars to free those neighbours from tyranny. The incongruity of this defies belief. Domestically we risk the breakup of the UK as genuine grievances in Scotland and Northern Ireland are not recognised and resolved. There are also a number of challenging issues looming over the horizon which our policy makers are failing to address. What happened to strong and stable leadership?
Whether or not we should leave the EU was a legitimate political question but the debate about it was handled so badly that the electorate were not clearly made aware of the possible consequences. The democratic deficit in the EU, its failure to take subsidiarity seriously and its attempts to draw 28 countries with very different cultures and economies into a United States of Europe are real issues that needed to be addressed. But how aware were the voters made of the risks of Brexit to the UK economy and their jobs? How realistic was the talk of trade deals in new markets when 40% of our exports go to our nearest neighbours? How much thought was given to the need for European solidarity in the face of Russian expansionism? How responsible was the clamour to close our borders to EU workers when our NHS, construction industry and agriculture need those workers? Who thought about the implications of Brexit for our membership of EURATOM and ECRIS?
Whatever the outcomes of Brexit there are a number of other issues that ought to be high on the political agenda and are not. Global warming and climate change is the most obvious. We signed up to COP 21but how has that changed our energy policies? New petrol and diesel cars are to be banned in 2040 but how will we generate sufficient electricity to recharge all the replacement cars? And if driverless cars are commonplace by 2040, what will happen to all those who earn their living as taxi, bus and delivery drivers? Add to that the continuing development of artificial intelligence and robotics that begin to replace human labour. This is no longer science fiction and it will have serious consequences for those who are rendered unemployed by machines that do their jobs more cheaply and competently than they can do them? How will our schools prepare our children for that environment and how will the benefits system support the unemployable?
Nor can we afford to ignore the continuing tide of refugees seeking sanctuary from tyrannical rulers and from the effects of climate change on their homelands. Our history and permanent membership of the UN Security Council obliges us to accept some responsibilities on the global stage. How might we work with our allies to encourage the replacement of the world’s 49 dictators with stable democratic governments? Our problem is not that we have no answers to these questions but that nobody in political leadership seems to be even asking ‘what can and should we be doing’? Where are the visionaries who will trigger debate and inspire the nation to consider these issues and actively participate in our own flawed democratic system? It is time for earnest prayer for vision that is both God honouring and neighbour loving.