Sunday, 26 June 2016

EU Referendum - A time for Serenity or for Courage?

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." Reinhold Niebuhr's famous prayer has been on my mind today.

In the wake of Thursday's devastating result, should we now shrug our shoulders, say 'that's democracy' and serenely accept the outcome of the EU referendum? When I look at all that blue on the map of England and Wales I am tempted to feel hopeless and ready to despair. I woke up on Friday feeling as if war had been declared, as if everything I had worked hard for all my life had gone and that my country had been taken away. I felt unnerved and destabilised as markets crashed, as I spoke to people in tears and shock, and I felt scared, aware that something very nasty has been unleashed in our society. Nothing that has happened since has reassured me or reduced my sense of grief and bereavement.

I don't feel ready for serene acceptance. I'm not yet prepared to accept that leaving the EU is the right outcome for the UK. I think this is a time for courage. 

During the Referendum campaign, with our two main political parties in disarray, no-one made a really strong case for all the positive benefits of being in the EU, notably for many of the areas with a majority in favour of leaving. A lot of people felt confused and that they didn't know the full facts. Many people who voted to leave don't seem to have understood the full implications of what they were doing. Nearly all of the promises made to them have been broken already or exposed as blatant lies.Some Leave voters are already expressing regrets. Others are engaging in racist criminal behaviour and stirring up a climate of hatred that has been festering for some time but now appears to have had the lid taken off. Our British reputation for tolerance, inclusion and openness (such as it was) may have been permanently tarnished. A recession has likely been triggered in the UK, if not globally.

This was not a General Election. The EU referendum is not legally binding. It is advisory. The advice is that we are a deeply divided nation who need clear and calm leadership and an end to deprivation and austerity. The advice is that all of our capital cities and 2 of the 4 countries of the UK do not want to leave the EU and that doing so is likely to lead to the break up of the United Kingdom. The advice is that only 37.8% of the electorate voted to leave, less than 27% of the total population, and that the young people who voted, and who will be most affected in the long term, overwhelming want to remain. We did not even allow 16 to 17 year-olds a say. The advice is that although 17.4 million people want to leave, 16.1 million don't. A difference of 1.3 million people out of a total population of 65 million is not a sufficient margin to break up our United Kingdom, wreck our economy, risk our security, throw away our rights and destroy our environment.

Please write to David Cameron and to your MP asking them to oppose the invocation of Article 50 and to vote against it in Parliament. Please write to your MEPs, EU ministers and office holders asking them to help us not to make this foolish mistake. And above all please continue to show love, tolerance and compassion towards all our fellow citizens, Leave or Remain, EU or non-EU. We are all one.

We can still step back from this. It will not be easy and it will take courage. My prayer today is that I will have the courage to continue to say to my fellow countrymen and women who voted Leave that I think they are wrong; that I will have the courage to call on our politicians to be courageous in helping us to think again; and that I will have the courage to reach out to others and invite them to believe that they too can have the courage to change things. Time alone will tell if this courage was also wisdom.

No comments:

Post a Comment