England is the mother of parliaments,” said 19th-century British statesman John Bright. He was right. More than 30 countries use the “Westminster system,” a legislative model named after the building that houses Britain’s parliament.
Britain’s system of government is far from perfect. But there’s no denying it has been successful. The nation’s last violent political upheaval occurred more than 350 years ago. Since then, Britain has survived and thrived while other governments suffer and fall because of one social problem after another.
Starting with the French Revolution in 1789, wave after wave of upheaval has swept across Europe. Monarchies fell in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Russia. In the 20th century, Britain was almost the only European government to remain unshaken by the twin threats of fascist and Communist parties, which weakened or destroyed other governments.
No wonder many ex-colonies of the British Empire have kept a similar form of government even after receiving their independence. No wonder other nations have adopted it. The British system of government seems to offer a stability unmatched by anything else.
And then came Brexit.
Few would extol the virtues of Britain’s political system now.
A nation that has stared down Napoleon and Hitler, that remained unstained by the bloodletting of events like the French Revolution, that led the greatest and best empire in world history, that still leads a commonwealth of nations, is now coming undone, trying to quit a glorified free trade agreement. Why?
A Dog’s Brexit
The Brexit process has been a shambles from the start. Britain voted to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016. As a result, pro-EU Prime Minister David Cameron resigned. The battle to succeed him looked like an episode from one of the nation’s many political comedy series. All the candidates self-destructed or stabbed each other in the back, except one. Theresa May became prime minister by default. She barely managed to fit in one campaign speech before her final rival resigned.
On March 29, 2017, Mrs. May triggered Article 50, which started the clock on a two-year countdown to leave the EU. Now the pressure was on to resolve a host of issues for which it had been relying on Europe for 40 years. If it wasn’t ready to stand on its own two feet when the two-year period was up, the nation would have to turn to the EU for help, and be vulnerable to European blackmail.
But Britain immediately got busy wasting time. In April 2017, Mrs. May called a general election. For the next two months, the nation fixated on the vote. Then, in a shocking result, Mrs. May and the Conservatives lost seats instead of gaining them. A radicalized Labour Party gained seats in Parliament, and the Conservatives stayed in power only with the help of the Democratic Unionist Party. Under this new configuration, if just a few members of Parliament were to withhold their votes, they could hold the entire government hostage.
Since this weak start, things have only worsened. While Brussels has remained strong, united and determined in its two years of negotiations over Brexit, Britain has been divided and indecisive. In November 2018, less than six months before Britain was due to leave, the two sides finally negotiated a Brexit deal. It was a terrible deal for Britain.
“If M.P.s vote for this deal, we are bowing our neck to the yoke,” wrote Boris Johnson, who was May’s foreign minister until he quit over her approach to the Brexit deal. “We are preparing to take colonial rule by foreign powers and courts. … In fact, we are surrendering control to the EU—and this 585-page fig leaf does nothing to cover the embarrassment of our total defeat” (Telegraph; Nov. 18, 2018).
Former Conservative Party Chairman Lord Norman Tebbit wrote that it was hard to see the agreement as “anything other than part of a punishment beating of our country for daring to claim the right to self-government lest other EU states should follow our example” (ibid; Nov. 19, 2018).
Cambridge history professor Robert Tombs wrote, “It is practically unheard of in modern international relations for an independent state to place itself under foreign jurisdiction and foreign legislation. One would have to think of colonial status (for example of the American colonies before 1776) for an adequate analogy. For a modern democratic state to deny its own citizens even an indirect voice in deciding the laws governing them for an indefinite period would previously have been unimaginable: taxation without representation, to the tune of £39 billion” (ibid; Nov. 17, 2018).
“No nation would normally accept such terms unless very small, or bankrupt, or first defeated in war,” wrote the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard on Nov. 14, 2018.
Meanwhile, the EU was delighted. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker boasted that the EU got “almost everything” that it wanted in the Brexit proposal. The European Commission produced a presentation that said the deal committed Britain to EU rules in a way that was “without precedent.” It said that it had a lot of “leverage” over Britain in future negotiations.
But this Brexit mess was not just the prime minister’s fault. Parliament was heavily involved in the negotiations, to an almost unprecedented degree. It didn’t improve the results.
“The real problem, of course, is that our politicians have got themselves into such a hopelessly ill-informed muddle that there is no longer a Commons majority in support of any next move we might make,” wrote the Sunday Telegraph’s Christopher Booker. “The various vociferous factions all know what they are against, but they cannot agree on any positive move that might dig us out of the gaping hole they have all unwittingly conspired to get us into. … One cannot think of any time in history when the standing of British politicians, either with the public at large or in the eyes of the outside world, has ever—quite deservedly—been lower” (January 11).
Booker’s one-time coauthor Richard North agreed, tweeting: “Today, we are seeing parliament in its death throes. Never more has it been so obvious that parliament is a failing institution, buoyed by an equally lackluster media which represents another failing institution” (January 15).
On January 15, Mrs. May’s deal finally came before Parliament. She received the biggest defeat of modern times: 432 voted against the deal; only 202 in favor.
The reviews were scathing. “British politics is broken,” wrote Politico. “It may not be fixable in time to solve the Brexit mess” (January 16).
“That’s not a loss, it’s a nuclear event,” wrote the Telegraph, “the biggest slap across the chops to any government in British political history” (January 15).
“This is only the end of the beginning, in a Brexit civil war that will last a generation,” wrote the Guardian. “There is no end in sight, no healing in prospect, no solution to hand, whatever the outcome of myriad votes” (January 14).
And hence the situation Britain finds itself in today, committed to leave the EU by March 29, but with no clear view on how to do so or what will happen next.
Why has Britain’s government failed so badly with Brexit? And what does the Brexit debacle reveal about Britain’s moral and spiritual health?
An Accurate Description
From the very day Britain joined what would become the European Union, Herbert W. Armstrong forecast it would leave. He did so because of Bible prophecy. As he proved in his book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, Britain is descended from the ancient nation of Israel. God blessed Britain on account of its ancient ancestor, Abraham. But God promised that if Abraham’s descendants did not follow his example and refused to obey God, those blessings would be removed and replaced by curses. God prophesied that He would use Europe, as well as others, to punish Britain.
Europe would rise, and Britain would fall. The Bible describes in detail Britain’s spiritual health in the last days—and how the nation will fall.
In Hosea 5:12, God says He will be like a moth to Ephraim, the Israelite tribe that became modern Britain. “A moth-eaten garment looks good in the closet, but take it off the hanger and it falls apart,” writes Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his booklet Hosea—Reaping the Whirlwind. “God says Britain is like a moth-eaten garment. … Even though certain things may look good on the surface, [it is] ready to fall apart!”
Clearly Britain has fallen far from the height of its imperial power. But many observers fail to realize how bad conditions really are. When Britain voted to leave the EU, many forecast a sunny future. Freed from the shackles of Europe, Britain could be great again. Despite the chaotic handling of Brexit, this view persists. The Audit of Geopolitical Capability published January 4 by the Henry Jackson Society proclaimed Britain the second-most powerful nation in the world—even ahead of China.
Yet Brexit is putting that moth-eaten garment to the test. And the longer time goes on, the more it becomes obvious that it is falling apart.
Other scriptures paint a similar picture. In Leviticus 26:19, God prophesies to the disobedient: “I will break the pride of your power.” Even as far as Britain has fallen since the height of its empire, it still has some power. But it has no will, no national sense of purpose to use it.
These same scriptures also point to a critical lack of leadership.
In Isaiah 3, God says that He is removing the leadership “from Jerusalem and from Judah.” Judah refers to the Jews. Jerusalem, which was the capital city of all of the Israelite tribes during the reigns of David and Solomon, refers to all the modern nations of ancient Israel, including Britain.
God says that He will remove “the stay and the staff.” Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament defines this as “the chief persons of a nation, on whom [the people] lean.” God goes on to list the specifics: “The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator” (verses 2-3). In the military and judiciary, and especially in politics, the great leaders are gone.
Isaiah 59 vividly describes the results of such a lack of leadership: “We look for light but find only darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead. We growl like hungry bears; we moan like mournful doves. We look for justice, but it never comes. We look for rescue, but it is far away from us” (verses 9-11; New Living Translation).
In the 1970s, conditions looked grim in Britain. The once great empire was quickly becoming the sick man of Europe. So the nation turned to the Continent in hope of a bright future. Decades later it was clear that, just as Mr. Armstrong said, there is no hope in Europe. Thus, the nation voted to leave. Yet that hasn’t brought the bright skies the nation searches for. Whichever way we turn, there is only darkness. Now we grope around, stumbling, unsure of what to do.
This chapter also reveals the cause of this lamentable state of affairs: “For our transgressions are multiplied before You” (verse 12; New King James Version). Isaiah 3 gives the same cause for our lack of leadership: “For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord …” (verse 8).
In the eyes of many euroskeptics, EU membership was the source of all Britain’s ills. Leaving would solve everything. The last two years have proven this notion false.
That is not to say EU membership was a good thing. In many ways, it was a curse. Hosea 7:8 states, “Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people ….” TheTrumpet.com managing editor Brad Macdonald explained this passage shortly after the Brexit vote: “This is a prophecy that end-time Britain would intertwine itself with foreign people, foreign customs, foreign religions and foreign entities—like the European Union. Verse 9 shows that this leads to devastation: ‘Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not ….’ Britain today, as Hosea prophesied, has no ‘strength,’ which means ‘might, power, substance, wealth and force.’ Britain is sick—very, very sick—and a major part of the cause is its embrace of foreigners and foreign institutions, like the European Union. This isn’t a politically correct message, but it is a truth backed by reality. (It isn’t biblical justification of racism and bigotry either!)”
The EU has caused a lot of Britain’s problems. But it is not the root cause. It is only a symptom of a deeper sickness: the nation’s embrace of sin. Britain has voted to leave the EU, but it has done nothing to leave behind its indulgence in sin. Instead, the nation is breaking God’s law more than ever.
This is becoming clearer every day: Brexit did not solve Britain’s problems. Only repentance of breaking God’s laws can do that, and there has been none of that since Brexit.
Instead, the curses from God for broken law will only intensify. “Many people in the UK were optimistic about the future last year when voters chose to leave the European Union,” wrote Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in the September 2017 cover article. “But things have gotten very messy. … It has taken a few generations for the magnificent British Empire to fall from being the greatest empire in history. But 2017 has been unusually bad. Why?”
That article describes why God’s curses on the nation are coming faster than ever.
God has great plans for Britain. He made it the greatest and best empire in world history, not merely to bless its people, the descendants of Abraham, but to serve as a model to other nations, lifting them out of poverty, disease, erroneous religion and ignorance. He wanted other nations to look at Britain and say, “And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” (Deuteronomy 4:8). He wanted other nations to be inspired to copy Britain’s system of government and law.
But Britain’s parliamentary system is not what God wants the nations to emulate. He wants a nation that submits to Him. In blessing Britain, God gave the nation an opportunity to be that example to the world, but we did not take it.
And now God is correcting the modern nations of Israel, until they will turn to Him. Once that happens, Britain will have an opportunity to be far more than a mother of parliaments. It will help lead the whole world to God.