That was interesting! A week ago I published this article European referendum – The TIPPing Point Now I want to look at some of the reactions and arguments put to see if I have changed my mind again!
Two things have surprised me over the past week.
1) Many people have read it – despite the fact that it is lengthy and I am not exactly either an expert or someone famous, tens of thousands of people have read it. It just shows the power of social media and the Internet and how it can actually be a part of the democratic process. It is also really encouraging that people are interested in serious debate and not just soundbite politics.
2) Many people have changed their minds, or had their minds made up by the article – To be honest I wrote it not to try and persuade others, but like most of my articles, to help me think through the issues. But I have received several messages from people who have said that because of the article they have either changed their minds, or decided to vote leave.
Of course not every one was quite so positive! There were some good contributions from people who wanted to stay in the EU who provided some positive and helpful arguments. Emotionally I am on their side, but rationally I just can’t see it. There were people on both sides who just give daft emotive arguments – on the Leave side its just ignorant for people to state things like ‘I don’t like Germans’, or ‘lets keep all the immigrants out’. Such people make me despair! On the In side there are the equivalent. I think my favourite was ‘I like Europe, its got some cool cities to visit, so I’m in’ – as though leaving the EU would mean the end of visiting Paris, Milan and Berlin!
‘I like Europe, its got some cool cities to visit, so I’m in’
One very interesting contribution was from an English Christian who stated, “I find that a great deal of what is written/sent on these media is rushed, ill-thought out and/or extreme. As I see from your blog, this is exactly what you are suffering as a result of your article.” He was a little concerned that his daughter was now leaning towards leave because of my blog and so he wanted to set me straight – by sending me an extract from the Church Times – which he considered to be a more appropriate Christian response. The Church Times article was actually almost like a spoof parody article – high on emotion and warm cuddly fuzziness, and low on facts and evidence. Maybe that’s reflective of its theology?! So what I have done is take some of its responses and some of the others I have received and answered them below. Some are clearly more important and serious than others (and again I stress that there were some thoughtful and helpful responses which disagreed with me – not least from my colleague and friend Rev John Ross – perhaps he should write a pro-EU article?).
Don’t you want world peace? – The way that some people write it’s as though if we vote to leave, we are voting to start World War III! The notion that world peace depends upon Brussels bureaucracy is I think somewhat far-fetched. To quote the 400 anniversary man, ‘methinks the lady doth protest too much’!
Don’t you want power? Poor little Britain. The sixth largest economy in the world and one of the largest populations, and yet we could not survive without being part of a bigger power bloc.! No, I don’t want power. I want freedom. Or perhaps it would be easier to say I do want power. I want the power to be able to elect the people who govern us and to throw out those we don’t agree with.
I mentioned TTIP as the major reason I was going to vote Leave and some correspondents ridiculed me – one even saying that TTIP was an open and transparent process (I think he belonged to one of those political parties who want to legalise cannabis. Perhaps he had been partaking a little too much of his own product!). Lo and behold along came two news stories this week. Firstly Molly Scott Catto wrote this article in The Guardian
TTIP – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/04/secrets-ttip-corporations-not-citizens-transatlantic-trade-deal
“As an MEP I’m party to the transatlantic trade deal’s inner workings. I’m sworn to secrecy, but this much I can say: TTIP is undemocratic” –
Even more dramatically details have been leaked by Greenpeace and they are as bad as I expected – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ttip-talks-france-francois-hollande-deal-agreement-transatlantic-trade-partnership-a7011986.html
Some said that it’s great that we have the EU to deal with TTIP for us because the British government would just cave in. But the key issue is not whether Britain would agree a separate TTIP but that, unlike the EU, we get to choose the politicians who would do so. Its called democracy.
I was even more intrigued by the man who argued that the EU would be big enough to take on Google, but the UK would not. I hadn’t realised that Google was a country! I thought we were talking here about the rule of law – and, at least from a Christian perspective, the rule of law should not depend on how big or powerful you are. The law should be the same for all. My correspondent said I was naïve – but hey, that’s the way it goes – I do believe in equality before the law for all.
Don’t you want gospel prosperity? – This was the most unexpected objection. Well, apart from the ‘don’t you want to be in the Eurovision’? (like Israel?!). Or ‘don’t you want to play in the European Championships (as a Scotsman this latter question seems somewhat irrelevant!). I was asked this by several people. And there was a serious point to it. Because right now we have freedom to live, work and be missionaries in any part of the EU. Would that not be taken away?
There is a degree of truth in that, but I’m not sure it is a major issue and sometimes I felt it was being asked as a matter of convenience – having to fill out all those forms would be such a hassle. My problem with it is that I struggle to see what the major impact will be. We will still be able to travel, visit and in many cases work in most, if not all European countries. We are not talking about setting up fortress Britain. Although there is another concern that I would have – because I think that some of the people who were asking this were asking from a particularly Euro-centric or Brit-centric approach. I have currently noticed an impact on missionary work in the EU and especially in the UK. Because our government is so concerned about immigration numbers it is becoming harder and harder for Christian workers from Africa, Asia and America to come to the UK. It strikes me that a far greater concern for the Gospel is Fortress Europe, where a largely secular de-Christianised Europe keeps out Christian workers from other continents.
Do you want to be poor? I already referred to this in the original post, so I won’t go over the details, but one challenge I got was, can you name any economists who support Britain leaving. No sooner was I asked that than news came on the BBC about a group called Economists for Brexit.
In their own words –
“The Economists for Brexit is a group of eight independent, leading economists who are convinced of the strong economic case for leaving the EU. To date, debate on the economic merits of whether the UK should remain in the EU has become overwhelmed by the Government’s Project Fear campaign. Each of the eight economists have become exasperated by the scaremongering and often economic illiteracy of this campaign. At the same time, the group believes that whilst there are a substantial number of economic arguments to support Brexit, they are yet to be made in public. The purpose of this group is to explain the vey clear economic arguments in favour of Brexit, offering voters – who are crying out for clarity on the economics of Brexit facts based on proven economic models, as opposed to speculation. “
Don’t you want to give to the poor? This was the reverse of the previous argument. It is the altruistic ‘Christian approach. Surely we should not mind paying more money into the EU – we are one of the richer countries and isn’t it nice and good to help Rumania? To which the answer is, of course it is. But is this the best way to help Rumania and other ‘poorer’ countries? Is the EU the only or even the best way to be altruistic?
What about the plague? If we leave the EU will the plague not return to Europe and be carried through the Channel Tunnel by giant man-eating rats? Ok – I made that one up. But some of the propaganda and claims have been ridiculous. There are of course some on the Out side (unless we leave we will be swamped by Muslim immigrants/all our fish will disappear etc.) but most of the stuff I have received of this type has been from the In. Mortgages will go up, the NHS will collapse, the Americans won’t like us, we can’t have holidays in Spain etc. The contempt with which the British government regards its own citizens is shown in this sad piece of propaganda – https://www.eureferendum.gov.uk/take-eu-quiz/
I spoke to a few business people and some said it might affect them a bit, but most just simply said life would go on for them as before – apart from some turbulence in the markets.
And that’s about it….I’ve seen nothing to make me change my mind and am now an even more convinced ‘outer’. I note with interest that a poll today suggests that the ‘collective will of the Scottish people is to stay in ’ as suggested by the Scottish Government, is not quite as clear as they portray. 40% of those who want Scotland to leave the UK also want Scotland to leave the EU, which at least has the merits of being consistent. But then maybe they are not really ‘part of the collective will of the Scottish people?’
Three small things to end with that illustrate and back up my first article
‘independent, impartial and authoritative information’.
I was sent this advert -Do you want the facts? – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-the-european-union-but-did-not-know-whom-to-ask-tickets-22418861418?aff=efbneb
It sounds great. Its ‘independent, impartial and authoritative information’. “This free event is open to everyone. It is organised by the European Institute for Security and Justice – a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, with the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) and the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, and the European Movement in Scotland. With less than two months before referendum day, don’t miss this opportunity to get free independent, impartial and authoritative information!” – I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. And then one of the students told me that the lecturers they knew who were giving this ‘impartial’ info were all pro-EU – not surprising given who they are sponsored by. It’s like going to an impartial, independent and authoritative information lecture given by Nigel Farage and sponsored by UKIP! But this is how the EU works – it spreads its largesse (our taxes) to Universities, big business and media, who then tell us ‘impartially’ how wonderful the EU is!
I mentioned Turkey and people said, don’t be daft that’s not going to happen. Today, as I write, we have been told that as a reward for taking back refugees Turkey will be granted visa free status (except for the UK) – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36199811
Again personally I actually think that it is a good idea except for one reason. It’s a shoddy deal, done to reward an increasingly authoritarian government that is opposed to a free media. It sends all the wrong messages.
Speaking of messages. I was listening to a BBC programme on the fishing industry and they made one statement I did not believe. Apparently there is ONE Dutch fishing boat that takes 23% of the whole fishing quota that Brussels allows to Britain! Nah….I thought…that’s impossible. That has got to be a made up story. But its not. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/11305123/No-end-to-the-EUs-crazy-fishing-policy.html The boat is called the Cornelis Vrolijk … whilst one has to admire the enterprise and efficiency of the Dutch (its little wonder that they are Vrojlijk – merry/cheerful), this is the kind of nonsense that we need out of.
So those of you who still want to stay in….send me your best case and I have another change of mind…but at the rate this is going it will need to be an almost Damascene conversion!
And finally ….some good news. Some people seem very worried and upset about all this. Imagine Donald Trump as President of the US, and Britain leaving the EU, or worse being stuck in the EU….woe, woe, the sky is falling. No. It’s not. And it won’t. The rulers of this world may think that is what they are. But I believe that there is one who is the King of Kings and he has the whole world in his hand. And that he works all things for the good of those who love him. Even the EU….