Why I’m voting for Brexit

With the referendum two days away, I thought I’d write
some thoughts on why I will be voting to leave the EU on Thursday. There are
many good people on both sides of the debate and honourable motivations
for voting for either side, and I see no reason why friendship and fellowship
cannot survive disagreement on this issue. However, I shall vote to leave on
Thursday for one reason alone, liberty. I believe liberty is best protected
when those in power are accountable to those they govern. It is quite clear
that the EU power structures are not accountable in this way and therefore we
must leave them. The history of the EU is a story of
more and more areas of life being governed by decisions made far away from any
sense of democratic accountability
. The crisis is Greece and the
attitude of Germany to Greek plight is ample demonstration that the EU is too
large to have a coherent, united demos in which the mutual sacrifices necessary
to maintain a nation are happily shared by the people as a whole. This means
that rather than the moving spirit of EU legislation being the democratically
expressed will of the people, it is instead the plans and projects of a class
of anonymous officials. As Charles Moore put it, ‘Empires are too large for democracy, but very fulfilling for
bureaucrats. Their peoples are too disunited to rule themselves, so they need a
special class of people to rule them.’

Some claim that the EU is democratic because the
Commission, the only body able to propose legislation in the EU, is accountable
to the Council of Ministers. But this misses the point that it has always been
the executive, Government ministers, that Parliament has needed to keep
accountable. Ministers should be subject to democratic scrutiny in a government
system, not be themselves the only element of it. Thus far I think the EU has used
its power relatively benignly, considering the democratic deficit at its core. However,
Christians, knowing what Jesus taught about the human heart, should be very
wary of what those who possess power will do in the future, when unconstrained by
strong legitimate democratic institutions.

The problem is that, far from being a force for
diversity, the EU vision is ultimately one of conformity. This bureaucratic
control, designed to be imposed uniformly on all 28 states with courts that sit
above national parliaments, is, of course, hubristic. It is impossible for one
group of bureaucrats to take into consideration the cultures, traditions, and
needs of 28 different nation states. As Maurice Glasman and Michael Schluter both
explain, the EU is fundamentally hostile to the complex web of tradition, institution
and family ties that make up a nation state. Its vision is one where human
beings are fundamentally units of economic production and consumption, equally able
to work in a factory is Sofia or Scunthorpe without reference to the complex web
of local and national ties that make up our identity. Not only is this a
reductionist view of the human condition but, as Michael Schluter explains, ‘it violates (the principle of) solidarity of
family and local community, because it directly promotes capital and labour
migration across the EU. Families and communities which are broken up in this
way are not easily re-formed, and leave a major gap in terms of welfare
provision in future years – a gap which can only be filled by the State.’ The
disaster of the Eurozone shows that the EU does not have structures sensitive
to the local, democratic, concerns of its citizens that can successfully
navigate the pressures produced by this attempt to maintain uniformity. While
we are not in the euro, the EU as an institution is fundamentally committed to
the vision behind it; that of an undifferentiated market of 500 million people.
Indeed, it is the basis of the advantages of this arrangement that we are urged
to remain. But it is this very fact, that the EU seeks to make and impose one
set of laws on such a large and diverse set of nations, that make it unstable
and increasingly dangerous.

In the last few days, many
Christians have been arguing that the free movement of people allows Gospel
workers to minister across Europe and that this is, therefore, a reason to vote
remain. Leaving aside the fact that many non-EU citizens are currently ministering
the Gospel in the EU and that migration and travel between the UK and the
continent did not begin in 1973, this is a fundamentally short-sighted
argument. Religious liberty is best maintained when executive power is limited
and accountable. This was precisely the principle that led Presbyterians and
Independents, and many others, to fight a Civil War to establish the
accountability of the crown to Parliament. The arrangement enshrined in 1689,
while far from perfect, has been a strong and stable foundation for religious
liberty for over 300 years. EU institutions have none of these democratic
constraints. Already there are concerns about the EU impinging on free speech,
and are we sure that the EU commission will
never move further in this direction? How would we stop them if we did? The
Parliamentary system in the UK provides democratic accountability for each
piece of legislation passed and this has proved a valuable safeguard for the
rights of religious minorities. The EU system has no provision to amend
or repeal legislation at all
. Of course, one cannot be sure, but I
imagine that our seventeenth century forebears would be astonished that we were
prepared to accept their hard won liberties being placed in the hands of an
unaccountable executive and foreign courts. Of course, all empires have their
advantages, like the freedom to travel widely; but to exchange the precious web
of liberty and rule of law that has characterized the British body politic for
the diktats of an unaccountable bureaucracy and thereby entrust our precious liberties to such an institution seems reckless to me.

Political liberty is a
historic rarity. It relies on a subtle and delicate balance of authority and
consent, law and freedom that very few societies have achieved. It is
threatened not only by the charismatic dictator with a cult of personality, but
also by the slow, banal, unchecked progress of bureaucratic executive power.
C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘I am a democrat because
I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the
opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas
of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind
so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. Whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation… The real
reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can
be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some
people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject
slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.’ Exactly right. Those that run
the EU, no matter how benign their concern or noble their aspiration, are not
fit to be masters of the fate of 500 million of their fellow men and women. It
is time to remove them. It is time to protect our liberty. That is why I will vote to leave on Thursday.

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