What’s the story?
As the UK government prepares to trigger Article 50 and begin negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union, there’s still huge uncertainty among a divided population around what Brexit really means.
A year ago it seemed unthinkable, even among the most fervent Euro-skeptics. Yet after the famous referendum which cost a Prime Minister his job, Britain has voted to leave the European Union, and now begin the formal process of uncoupling the country from its complicated financial and political ties with much of the rest of the continent.
Although she was famously a Remain supporter before the referendum, Prime Minister Theresa May has been firm in her assertion that 'Brexit must mean Brexit.' However, there’s still great uncertainty about what that really means, and the truth will only be discerned through protracted negotiations between Britain and the EU.
It’s a little more complicated than that however – May’s Conservative government will also need to obtain cross-party support in the House of Commons for their proposals about how Britain and its relationship with the EU will change. The Government’s new Great Repeal Bill includes plans that they could remove aspects of EU law that have been incorporated into British law, without having to go through parliament first. Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer has already said that unless any deal meets Labour’s ‘six tests’, his party will 'not support any deal the government comes back with.'
If the politicians aren’t sure what is going to happen as a result of the decision to leave, then the average Briton is even less clear. Many of the Leave campaign’s pre-referendum promises – notably including the claim that an extra £350 million a week would be invested in the NHS – have already been proved false, and the clear case for leaving the Union seems decidedly more fuzzy now. On the other hand, the predicted financial apocalypse of which some in the Remain camp warned hasn’t arrived either.
The UK now has two years to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal from the EU, and it’s currently unclear whether the agreement will feel more like a divorce or a new kind of trade agreement. May’s Government seem to favour the latter, although this is less attractive to the EU who could feel that the UK would then enjoy the benefits of membership without the responsibility. Or it’s even possible that the two parties will agree no deal at all, with the relationship simply expiring and restoring to uncertain defaults.
What have others been saying?
The BBC has provided a helpful guide to Article 50 and what will happen as a result of the Government triggering it.
Some voices still firmly oppose leaving the EU, as typified by this Observer editorial on triggering Article 50.
Meanwhile a very different view is held by The Telegraph, which ran an editorial asking if the ‘old Remainers will finally get out of the way’ as a result of Article 50 being triggered.
#1 – PREFERRING ONE ANOTHER
The challenge of the Article 50 mediations is that both parties will be looking to get the best deal that they can out of it. In contrast, Jesus modelled and talked about a completely upside-down way of approaching negotiation. He said 'if anyone would be first, they must become the very last, and the servant of all (Mark 9:35).' Jesus encouraged mutual submission, where every person prefers every other and puts other people’s needs and agendas ahead of their own. This radical idea is a key principle of the Kingdom of God, and could be transformative in International diplomacy. As Christians though, we need to get better at employing this idea in our own lives before we start imposing it on others.
#2 – HARMONY BETWEEN NATIONS
The Bible might contain a number of historical stories of nations in conflict, particularly in the early parts where God worked specifically through one – Israel. However there’s little doubt that Jesus’ superseding ideology is one of peace, love and harmony – his greatest commands are all around loving each other on both a small and grand scale, and one of his stories even addresses racial and religious difference. The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 (25-37) answers the question 'who is my neighbour' with a broad and challenging definition. Samaritans were the last people that the Jews would have wanted to associate and build bridges with, yet Jesus provocatively compares them to beloved neighbours. Jesus wanted nations to care for one another, and for his followers to become peace-makers between them.
Points for prayer
- Pray for those in the UK Government involved in agreeing an ‘Article 50’ deal, that they would act with integrity and be motivated by more than selfishness.
- Pray for those negotiating the deal from the EU side, that they would still be driven by a desire for the Common Good, rather than by a temptation to be punitive.
- Pray for the EU, that it will remain strong, and won’t collapse as a result of the UK’s move.
- Pray against the rise of far-right politics and extremism which turns nations and races against each other, and which seems to be flourishing around the world in 2017.
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.