The Most Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury has told us that God is a remainer.
It seems that the Church of England’s opinion is that the European Union is the best thing that has happened to the world since the collapse of the Roman Empire 1,500 years ago. It wasn’t entirely clear whether the Roman Empire was better than or just as good as the EU, but one thing was plain and that was that Christianity was of no importance at all when compared with the EU.
Some may reckon it odd that an Archbishop of Canterbury thinks a modern, rather unpopular, institution devoted to imposing hundreds of thousands of laws on peoples who have no say in how those laws should be framed is superior to Christianity. But there really is no cause for surprise. With many exceptions, I concede, there has now developed a tradition in the Church of England of its leaders supporting the political opinions of what they see as the left wing establishment. And that frequently involves treating Christ’s church as being inferior to the creations of modern man.
But I do have to say that I think the Archbishop has gone a little too far this time. Obviously, it is perfectly possible for a devout Christian to favour our membership of the EU. But it is equally possible for a devout Christian to want us to leave. Until the Archbishop spoke I had no idea that Christ had an opinion on the point. Neither had I ever heard it suggested by anyone in the UK, even my old friend Dominic Grieve, that the EU had no faults. But now I am told by the Archbishop that everyone has got the EU wrong: it has no faults; it is gigantically admired by God; He is desperate for a second referendum.
This seems to me to raise some interesting questions. Until the Archbishop spoke, no serious remainer had gone so far as to say there was no room for reform in the EU. Indeed, in a way, that was what made the remainers’ cause such a difficult one to advance in the referendum campaign. Everyone agreed (except, as it now turns out, the Archbishop of Canterbury), that the EU had many flaws. I think even Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry were prepared to admit that there was room for improvement. That put the remainers on the back foot when the campaign got going. It was difficult for them to put forward any positive reason to support our membership of the EU, so they resorted to project fear instead. And that, as we now know, didn’t work.
It is not for me to advise the remainers. I have been opposed to the European experiment for as long as I can remember. But I do think it is sad that the real debate has never taken place (or not in the last fifty or so years).
The message from the remainers during the referendum campaign was that everyone agreed the EU was in a mess, but if we left it we would become very poor. Money was all that mattered. Modern things like democracy were not important for the time being (maybe democracy could be gently introduced to the EU later). Of course, there were some brave souls who said we should stay in the EU because its bureaucrats were better at drafting Socialist regulations than we were. They weren’t saying there was any principled reason for staying in the EU, they just thought there was more chance of repressive social laws if we did.
Would the Archbishop’s approach have worked? His theory is that the EU is perfect. It has no faults. It is vastly superior to every other man made institution there has ever been (though the Roman Empire may run it a close second). It is even better than the Christian Church. What would have happened if Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and Mr Corbyn had taken that line during the referendum campaign? Would we all have swallowed the notion that the EU was the best thing since sliced bread, that it was entirely without fault? Obviously we wouldn’t. Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Corbyn had all said the EU needed to be reformed. But, more importantly, the need for reform was plain to all of us (except, as we now know, the Archbishop of Canterbury). If the remainers had suddenly started saying the EU was perfect, the NO vote would have been a lot higher than it was.
But that doesn’t mean that it was wise of the remainers to adopt an entirely negative campaign. All that world war III stuff and “remainers are all young and clever while leavers are all old and stupid” was hardly attractive, even to those who had no serious interest in the issues. I honestly do think they might have done better if one or two of them had been prepared to explain why they thought our membership of the EU was a good thing. Surely, they, or some of them, must have thought there were some advantages to our membership, other than just not having a third world war or descending into economic disaster if we left?
And now, despite the referendum, the dreary arguments are being run all over again. Several obviously rather dim MPs are bleating that we should stay in the EU because they want us to do so and they have got 2:2 degrees from red brick universities (which makes them geniuses). If that isn’t enough to persuade us, they have come up with project fear mark 2. Unless we stay in the single market and customs union and agree to be bound by the European Court of Justice without having any opportunity to influence EU law making, we will all starve because the benign EU will refuse to sell us any food.
Why are the remainers not prepared, even now, to tell us what they think is so good about the EU? Are they really so stupid as to think it is enough just to say they are more intelligent than the voters and that the world as we know it will come to an end if we don’t agree to be bound by all future EU laws? I don’t believe they are. I know many intelligent remainers. True, none of them has yet explained to me what it is they love about the EU. But that is not surprising. They know I have been desperate for us to regain sovereignty for nearly fifty years. They recognise that there is no prospect of changing my mind. But why won’t they tell others, people who are not so committed to the leavers’ cause as I am, what it is they love about the EU?