From the Parish Priest, Fr Nicholas Clews
I SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT’S BREXIT PROPOSALS. Not because I want to leave the EU – I voted ‘Remain’ like most of my fellow residents of Leeds. And nor because I voted for the Conservative government: I didn’t. I support the Government’s plans because of what St Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:
Let everyone be subject to the
governing authorities, for there is
no authority except that which God
This has to be interpreted very carefully. It cannot mean that we must always do what governments tell us. Many Christians in 1930’s Germany went along with that idea and allowed Nazism to take hold of a whole nation. Nearer to our own time, apartheid in South Africa came to an end because people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela consistently opposed the government.
I interpret Paul’s words to mean that the stability and security that a government provides are part of God’s plan. Government is, at heart, a good thing. That is the reason we pray for our leaders – when in our intercessions we pray for Elizabeth our Queen her name stands for the Prime Minster, all the cabinet and even the members of the Opposition.
So when it comes to deciding whether we support or oppose what the government is proposing, we have to weight up the value of stability, the knowledge and experience that a government possesses.
In the case of Brexit there is an added complication – that of the Referendum. Parliament made a conscious decision to seek the views of the people with implication that it would act upon them. The people voted by a very small majority to leave the EU. We may haggle over exactly what this means but if in the end we do not leave the EU there will be a very great deal of discontent – and it would be quite justified. In the case of a referendum the ‘governing authority’ is the mind of the British people expressed in the referendum,
But there is a further complication – that the majority was very small. Almost half the population want to stay in the EU! It is not possible for 48% of us to stay or for Leeds, London and Scotland to remain and everyone else leave. But there are degrees of relationship with the EU and it could be argued that a ‘52%-leave’ is indeed the will of the British people.
In practice a ‘52%-leave’ is what we might refer to as a ‘soft Brexit’. We leave but keep close ties with the EU.
In practice I think that is where the British government is coming from. They are seeking to honour the decision to leave; they are recognizing that 48% want to stay. It seems to me that they are seeking to honour the advice of St Paul:
Let everyone be subject to the governing
authorities, for there is no authority
except that which God has established.
And if the government is seeking to honour the authority of the British people perhaps we should honour the authority of the government.