What’s the story?
On Thursday 23rd June, a referendum will be held in the UK to decide whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union (EU). Opinion is fiercely divided on the issue, and cuts across party lines, with senior figures within the Conservative and Labour parties standing in opposition to their own colleagues.
After 43 years as a member of the EU, Britain’s government is allowing its citizens to decide whether it continues to be part of the 28-country partnership. The referendum was an election promise by Prime Minister David Cameron, in response to growing clamour from members of his own party, and the increasingly influential UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Despite calling the referendum, Cameron is the highest-profile supporter of the ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ campaign, speaking out almost daily in favour of a ‘remain’ vote. He’s joined by his chancellor George Osborne, by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and by the majority of the Liberal Democrat party.
Strong voices in the ‘Vote Leave’ or ‘Brexit’ campaign include senior Conservatives Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, several Labour MPs and two significant figures from 1980s politics, Lord’s Lawson (a former chancellor) and Owen.
Arguments for both points of view abound. Advocates of a ‘Brexit’ claim that leaving will allow Britain to take back control of large areas of decision-making, especially around business and immigration, while they’re also keen to avoid paying the large fees and subsidies involved in being part of the institution. Those who wish to remain believe that leaving would seriously damage Britain’s standing in the international community, and that it would also harm current trade agreements and the gradual economic growth that the country is now experiencing.
According to pollsters, the public appear to be fairly evenly split on the issue. Younger voters are more likely to support a vote to remain that older voters, but they’re also less likely to turn up and vote. This means that, just as with the AV voting system referendum and the last General election, a surprise result is entirely possible – for both sides.
What have others been saying?
The BBC have produced a handy (and frequently updated) guide to the referendum, as part of their extensive referendum coverage.
Ruth Gledhill has written a helpful guide to some of the Bible passages that could help Christians to think through the issue.
Christian leaders seem to be divided on the issue too. Premier Radio report that Lord Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, is a strong Brexit supporter.
Meanwhile Michael Sadgrove, a retired Church of England minister and founder of the Christians in Europe blog, has claimed that the ‘Brexiteers’ are ‘wrong politically, historically and theologically.’
And finally a debate on the Christian discussion site Threads presents two contrasting opinions on the issue from younger British writers and voters.
#1 – WISDOM
Big decisions require discernment and wisdom, and the Bible specifically tells us to ask for this. James 1 v 5 says “if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”, and while in the Old Testament Solomon made some poor decisions due to his character, he was revered for his unmatched and God-given wisdom. We should aspire to and ask for this kind of divinely-granted wisdom, especially when we face a major decision such as a referendum.
#2 – KINGDOM
It’s important to remember that as Christians, we’re citizens of another Kingdom entirely. Jesus himself had no fixed ‘home’ (Matthew 8 v 20 / Luke 9 v 58), and tells the Pharisees and Herodians ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’ (Mark 12 v 17) as a reminder of where our priorities should lie. Of course national identity matters, but Jesus’ most important instruction regarding them is that we should go into others, making disciples everywhere. These seem like important verses in the light of an argument about our own borders.
Points for prayer
Pray for a fair referendum, where the question is clearly understood by all, and where the final decision is clear and above question.
Pray that both campaigns would be run with integrity, and avoid public mud-slinging, particularly in the final days.
- Pray for the winning side, that they would have grace in dealing with those who have lost. Pray also for the losing camp, that they would accept the decision and move on positively.
- Pray for Europe, and for the many issues facing it at the moment – that God’s Kingdom would come, and that many people would continue to come to know him for the first time.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.