Is there a Christian view of the European Union? Should the UK be in or out? My grandfather would have had no doubts! The EU was the beast of Revelation! The Church of Scotland has no doubt that we should remain in the EU, and the Church of England in its own coded way sent out a prayer which hinted that being pro-EU was the Lord's will.
For me it has been a difficult one to decide. I ended up reading and thinking, chopping and changing until this week when I made a decision and published a blog on the issue. My concern was that there has been so much rhetoric and so little information. The blog is lengthy so for the benefit of Christian Today readers I provide this summary. If you want to read the whole thing you can get it here.
The Case for Remaining in the EU:
The EU has been a source of security, peace and prosperity for many years. After centuries of wars in Europe, and the two world wars of the 20th Century beginning there, it is noticeable that there has been peace in Europe for the past 70 years. The EU is surely a significant factor in that.
The EU has been a source of economic prosperity for all within. If Britain were to leave, the Treasury estimate it would cost each family £4,300 per annum by the year 2030. That is a massive hole left in most budgets. Plus 3 million jobs in the UK are dependent on being in the EU.
Freedom to travel without passports. The removal of borders. The right to live, work and study in any other EU countries. These are surely great benefits. I love being European. I consider myself European and I loathe what is sometimes called the 'Little Englander' mentality.
The EU is one of the major trading blocs in the world and therefore one of the major political powers. Britain is a key part of the EU and so gets to have a stronger say in world affairs.
Hasn't the EU been a bastion of human rights and workers' rights?
Ok, perhaps he shouldn't have come here and interfered in our affairs, but perhaps his warning is apposite. If Britain withdraws from the EU we cannot be guaranteed favourable trading arrangements with anyone.
The Case for Leaving:
The 'Brexiters' would argue that while there has been peace within Europe (if you leave aside the small matter of the Balkans) this has been guaranteed more by NATO and the need to stand against the communist Eastern Bloc than anything else. However I think this is the strongest argument for the EU.
As regards prosperity they ridicule the Treasury figure of £4,300. The Treasury's 'report' was as The Spectator observed 'perhaps the most dishonest document ever produced by HM Treasury'. It dressed up GDP as household income in order to deceive people and avoided the real figure of £1,480. However even that is a meaningless figure. Chancellor George Osborne keeps bringing forth Treasury projections for which he now has a 100 per cent record. Of failure. As he admitted in 2010 the Treasury is not much good at economic forecasting.
The Outers argue that Britain would be freed from EU bureaucracy and regulations and would be able to trade both with the EU and with the wider world and that we would be better off. Furthermore there is the not insignificant fact that we pay £13 billion into the EU treasury each year and get £4.5 billion back (that is with our rebate – without it we would be paying £18 billion).
Some more facts: 79 per cent of business activity in the UK is internal. 11 per cent of our GDP is with the rest of the world (and increasing) only 10 per cent with the EU (decreasing). No one believes that this trade would cease. The EU is a declining market – from 36 per cent of the world's GDP in 1973 (when we joined) to 17 per cent now. The EU determines who we trade with elsewhere in the world and on what terms, because individual countries are not allowed to do so. Note this simple point – for the sake of 10 per cent of our business we have to apply 100 per cent of EU rules to 100 per cent of our business.
What about the three million jobs that are dependent on being in the EU? Daniel Hannan points out how deceitful that claim is: "The dishonesty of this claim is staggering. It is based on the same false idea that Britain would stop trading with the EU if it were not a member. Why? No one argues that we have to form a political union with, say, Brazil or Russia in order to do business with those countries."
There is no way that Britain can control its own borders if it is within the EU. The freedom to travel, live, work and study does not just apply to the Western European nations but now to the Central and Eastern European nations which make up a significant number of the 28 member countries. This has already had a significant impact on Britain and will continue to do so. The millions of immigrants/refugees are one factor but by far the biggest factor is the proposed entry of Turkey.
In reality our influence is very limited. We have been outvoted 40 times in the past five years and we only have 3.6 per cent of EU Commissioners. In fact we have voted 70 times against proposed EU legislation and we have lost 70 times. Some influence!
There are of course quirks in the European Convention on Human Rights but overall I think it is a good thing. But here is the surprising thing for many people. It is not a product of the EU but rather of the Council of Europe, which if Britain left the EU, we would still belong to, and therefore we would still be a signatory to the ECHR.
Anyone who believes in democracy cannot vote to remain in the EU, at least not without shutting their eyes and crossing their fingers. The EU is fundamentally NOT a democratic institution. Indeed it is anti-democratic. The power in the EU lies not with the parliament but in the unelected EU Commissioners. Twice in the past five years the EU has removed a democratically elected government (in Italy and Greece) and appointed Brussels-approved technocrats. Tony Benn got the situation spot on. Once you have rulers who you cannot get rid of then you no longer live in a democracy.
Corruption is rife within the EU. The EU accounts have not been properly signed off for 19 years. More than 1,000 EU officials earn more money than David Cameron. All officials working for EU institutions are exempt from national taxation – they pay a flat rate of 21 per cent. The Euro gravy train is not a myth.
But it's not just about officials – it's about how democracy is conducted. The EU is a lobbyist's paradise. There are 25,000 of them in Brussels. The EU hands out largesse to organisations which then unsurprisingly support them. So for example I was told that several large NGO's supported Britain in the EU. That's interesting I thought, independent Non – Governmental Organisations must have good reason for so doing. Indeed they do. Action Aid, the NSPCC, One World Action and Oxfam received over 43 million Euros between them from the EU. Little wonder that these 'independent' charities support the EU. Likewise the Confederation of British Industry have received one million Euros, and British Universities have received almost 900 million. They are all enthusiastic 'independent' campaigners for staying in. The whole system is corrupt to the core.
Why was President Obama so adamant about the EU? We don't have to speculate. He made it clear – it all has to do with TIPP. "Our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement".
I am astonished that so few of our media picked up on the main issue here. They have presented it as though we already have a trade agreement with the US (at least through the EU) and they regard President Obama's threat as somehow substantial. Anyone reading the papers or watching the BBC would think, "oh no, the Americans will withdraw from trading with us and we will all be worse off" The only problem is that we currently don't have a trade agreement with the US, and we NEVER have! And yet trade goes on.
What is TTIP? It is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which cuts tariffs and regulatory barriers between the US and Europe. Sounds good? Think again. This is, as John Hilary, director of War on Want, says "An assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations." The negotiations have been conducted in secret with what we know coming from leaked documents and Freedom of Information requests. This is big business in league with big government (whom they pay for – especially in the US) trying to circumvent democracy and the rule of law. For more information this is useful.
Where does all this leave us?
The Remain campaign will almost certainly win. 80 per cent of referendums result in the status quo. Project Fear is always a powerful weapon. But we need to realize that the choice is not between the status quo and the risk of leaving. If we stay in, the status quo will not remain. Crisis within the EU will be met by a demand for more centralization, more regulations and greater political union. Both options have risks.
As a democrat I hope we leave the EU. Democracy is not perfect, but it is the best system of government we have. An ever-decreasing British democracy combined with an ever-increasing Euro-technocracy, will be a disaster for freedom. Because I want democratic Europe and not corporate Europe, I will be voting out. In my view any socialist, liberal, conservative, nationalist, green democrat should vote to leave. Only those who believe in a corporate European state, run by and for the big corporations, should vote to remain.
As a Scot/Brit I want my country to be governed by those who live here, and by those who can be voted out of power. So I will vote leave.
As a European I want a Europe of peace, prosperity, trade, diversity. I believe that the EU by seeking to create a Euro Super State will ultimately destroy what is good about Europe. I don't want to belong to a world power, or a giant trading bloc. I want to belong to a Europe where diversity and difference are celebrated.
As a Christian I don't know what God wants. To him the nations are as a drop in the bucket. I pray for kings, politicians, bureaucrats and all in authority, that we may live peaceable and godly lives. I pray for a renewal of Christian Europe, whatever the outward system of government – and I will work with the biggest, most radical and most diverse organization within Europe (the church) to achieve that. Without righteousness Europe will never prosper and never know peace. Lord, have mercy.
David Robertson is the moderator of the Free Church of Scotland and director of Solas CPC, Dundee. Follow him on Twitter @theweeflea.