All of us have been watching as the news of Brexit has sent shockwaves through the worlds of politics, economics, education and business, threatening once more to break-up the Union. While some see ‘brexit’ as a restoration of democracy and sovereignty, bringing immigration under control and saving us from a European Superstate, others see it as a suicidal step into the unknown, which will shrink the economy and lessen our standing on the world stage. For the latter, the Brexit decision was as humiliating as England’s defeat at the hands of Iceland in Euro 2016.
But what’s done is done. Whatever the motivations of the 33.5 million who voted in the election, the hard work must now begin. That means a commitment to listen to voices with which we disagree. Remainers, like myself, must pay attention to those millions across the country who’ve felt forgotten and let down by the establishment; those who’ve subscribed to the rhetoric that ‘this country has had enough of experts’. I believe that the ‘Leave’ box was for many a protest vote, and it’s vital that Remainers take time to understand the nature of that protest, rather than simply writing it off as anti-intellectual or incoherent.
Part of the hard work will also include a commitment to affirm and stand alongside those from other countries who bring huge benefits to our country’s social, cultural, intellectual, moral and economic fabric. The Leave campaign’s increasingly intense focus on the subject of migration – while emanating from an understandable concern about our apparently uncontrolled borders – could all too easily be hijacked by far-right elements in the UK and across Western Europe. Actively combatting racism and intolerance in our society has seldom seemed as important as it is right now.
"Actively combating racism and intolerance in our society has seldom seemed as important as it is right now."
For those tasked with leading us through this crisis – for politicians, negotiators, civil servants, economists, business people and leaders in the education, health and faith sectors – our thoughts and prayers are with them as they seek to steer us into calmer waters, looking to the long-term rather than the quick-fix. Personal ambition must now be set aside. The blame game should be laid to rest. The only question that should be preoccupying us right now is ‘how can we build a better, stronger, fairer Britain?’ In answering it, all are called to be generous, warm-hearted and open to partnerships throughout our inter-connected world.
Related articles: Diocesan Mission Adviser, Andrew Wheeler's blog 'Second Thoughts About Europe'