Recently I was given the privilege of attending a Bruges Group event celebrating the string of efforts that 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 all those who attended the event had something in common: They believed Brexit has saved Britain from disaster.
Andrew Roberts, a brilliant historian who has written histories of the 20th century and World War ii, gave the main speech. Mr. Roberts pointed to the fact that he was part of a small minority of historians who supported the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. In the month before the referendum, over 300 historians signed a letter declaring Brexit would “condemn Britain to irrelevance.” Mr. Roberts proudly pointed out that he put his signature on a letter declaring the opposite. But only four historians signed it with him.
Trying to put Brexit in its historical context, Mr. Roberts dealt with the issue from multiple angles. He talked about Europe’s right-wing movements gaining popularity; whether Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill would have been “Brexiteers” (Roberts’s answer being 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; and, invoking Godwin’s law, a comparison between the 1930s and now (“appeasers now read remainers”). Even fake news got a mention.
But the main point was this: Great Britain had a “separate historical architecture” than the rest of Europe.
In 1848, revolutions spread across the European continent. Republicans from Germany, Italy and Austria rose up against their rulers demanding more liberal constitutions. Karl Marx’s famous essay The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon discussed the most notable of these uprisings, which happened in France: the February Revolution.
In Britain, there was no 1848 revolution. It was separate. Magna Carta had been written 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 who made their decisions on a different continent, and pushing for a free Britain. Against the pollsters, media outlets, overseas banks, conservative Tories, accusations of racism, and even the appearance of United States President Barack Obama, the people had gone to the ballot box and voted for self-governance.
While some details remain to be settled (new trade deals, new alliances and the thousands of small details involved in actually leaving the EU), the main battle had been won. The mood in the room was that Britain would leave the EU to arrive in 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!
It’s not that the Trumpet doesn’t acknowledge many of the reasons why Britain would benefit from leaving the EU. Britain did have a history different from mainland Europe, and the EU was never designed to put Britain’s interests first.
But there was something wrong with the overly optimistic attitude of dedicated, passionate and now successful Brexit campaigners. It’s the notion that mankind is able to successfully govern himself.
For a group of conservatives, who would be most likely to fall into the school of realism, it was surprising that there was no mention of human nature. Two prominent political ideologies exist in the Western world: realism and idealism. The realist views the world as a stage of conflict among actors seeking power. The idealists believe that progress is possible, and that the world is capable of becoming more peaceful.
There was no indication that Britain’s governance problems would continue even after it left the EU. There was no talk of the fundamental problems in Britain’s 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 magnum opus, 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 couldn’t do a better job ruling its citizens from home than politicians in Brussels. It’s that mankind has always failed to establish lasting, successful government, and he always will fail.
We know this, not because of theories or intellectual hunches, but because every family, city, nation and empire shows daily that it is imperfect. Man, on his own, fails to produce peace in his own domestic life, but thinks he can find it on a national scale. Man, without the guidance of God, has continually proven that human nature prevents him from ruling other men in a way that is just and peaceful.
In another of Mr. Armstrong’s books, The United States and Britain in Prophecy, he put forward the biblical view of America and Britain’s future. In fact, all the way 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 the United States, 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. ▪