Will Brexit Solve All of Britain’s Problems?
Recently I attended a Bruges Group event celebrating the string of efforts that had culminated in Brexit. Many of the original Maastricht Rebels, a group of politicians who opposed the treaty to establish the common euro in 1992, attended the event. Nearly everyone there had something in common: They believe Brexit has saved Britain from disaster.
Andrew Roberts, a brilliant historian, delivered the main speech. He said he was part of a small minority of historians who had supported the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. Just before the vote, over 300 historians signed a letter declaring Brexit would “condemn Britain to irrelevance.” Roberts proudly revealed that he had signed a letter declaring the opposite. But only four historians did so with him.
Roberts tried to put Brexit in its historical context from multiple angles. He talked about Europe’s right-wing movements gaining popularity; whether Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill would have been “Brexiteers” (his answer was an emphatic “Yes!”); a possible new canzuk Union (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom); Antonio Gramsci and the left’s hold on universities; comparisons between the 1930s and now (“appeasers now read remainers”).
But Roberts’s main point was that Great Britain had a “separate historical architecture” from Europe. In 1848, revolutions spread across the Continent. Germans, Italians and Austrians rose up against their rulers demanding more liberal constitutions; the most notable uprising happened in France: the February Revolution. But in Britain, there was no 1848 revolution. Magna Carta had been drafted in 1215, and England’s Glorious Revolution had happened nearly 200 years earlier, in 1688.
So in a room full of euroskeptics and campaigners for Brexit, the mood was as optimistic as could be. They had been vindicated! Finally the people were fighting back against the establishment, rejecting the rule of bureaucratic elites on a different continent, and pushing for a free Britain. Against the pollsters, media outlets, overseas banks, conservative Tories and accusations of racism, the people had voted for self-governance.
While details remained to be settled (new trade deals, new alliances and thousands of other matters involved in leaving the EU), the main battle was won. The mood in the room was that Britain would now enjoy a utopia of trade partnerships, economic freedom and the chance to solve every problem the stuffy EU Parliament had imposed on them. It was the Enlightenment all over again—Britain free to govern with reason!
The Trumpet acknowledges many of the reasons Britain would benefit from leaving the EU. Britain’s history is different from mainland Europe’s, and the EU was never designed to put Britain’s interests first. But there is something the optimistic Brexiteers are overlooking.
For a group of conservatives, it was surprising that there was no mention of human nature at the conference. Two prominent political ideologies in the Western world are realism and idealism. The realist views the world as a stage of conflict among actors seeking power; the idealist believes that progress toward peace is something close to inevitable.
There was no acknowledgment that Britain’s governance problems will remain after leaving the EU. There was no talk of the fundamental problems in British society: crime, immorality, selfishness, corruption, liberalism and all the rest. Britain, simply by virtue of cutting ties to the Continent, would suddenly solve all its problems. Years of cultural and societal decay would be wiped away. Human nature was limited to Brussels; Britain, only, had the moral qualities to lead itself.
In his book Mystery of the Ages, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote of the continual failures of man’s forms of governments. In the process of describing the only alternative, he wrote: “It will not be so-called democracy. It will not be socialism. It will not be communism or fascism. It will not be human monarchy, oligarchy or plutocracy. It will not be man’s government over man. Man has proven his utter incapability of ruling himself.”
It’s not that Brexit may not be the better alternative. It’s not that Britain can’t rule its citizens from home better than politicians in Brussels can. It’s that mankind has always failed to establish lasting, successful government, and it always will fail.
Families, cities, nations and empires prove this truth daily. Man, on his own, fails to produce peace in his own domestic life, but thinks he can find it on a national scale. Without God’s guidance, man has continually proven that human nature prevents him from ruling other men in a peaceful, just way.
Mr. Armstrong explained the biblical view of America and Britain’s future. In fact, back in 1956, Mr. Armstrong predicted that Britain would not be part of the EU: “Germany is the economic and military heart of Europe. Probably Germany will lead and dominate the coming United States of Europe. But Britain will be no part of it.”
Britain and America, Mr. Armstrong wrote, would decline because of their immorality and rejection of God. He said these previously blessed nations were having their blessings removed.
Will Brexit solve all of Britain’s problems? No. But not for the reason many think. It’s because the nation will still have government by humans, and no matter how hard we try, we humans consistently show that we can’t govern ourselves in a way that solves all our problems.