- Our country is divided…
It might seem obvious as 16 million people nurse their wounds from being on the losing side, but the divide that is marked with the result of the EU referendum is remarkable. If you lived in London, Scotland and Northern Ireland you are much more likely to have voted for remain, but everywhere else in England and Wales, the leave campaign racked up big wins. Even in the outer boroughs of London the campaign to stay in the European Union struggled. Even more challenging is the generational divide. If you are 18-24 you were twice as likely to vote Remain as those over 65. Age and geography were huge factors in this vote.
- But we don’t realise that it is
As the UK stirred on the morning after the referendum, Facebook became populated with cries of: “But no one I know was voting leave, how has this happened?!” It happened because of the divide along age and geographical lines, and because these fissures mean that we end up in communities of people who are likely to think the same; therefore it becomes harder to present a dissenting opinion. This just exacerbates the ‘group think’ effect.
- Church leaders in the UK are willing to talk politics
The aspect of this campaign I was arguably most surprised about was the willingness of church leaders and other well-known Christian figures to speak publicly about the referendum and how they were voting. This is unusual because of the traditional reticence for British Christian leaders to speak about politics, partly out of an attempt to avoid comparisons with the US religious right. Some of the contributions were excellent, others less so; some sought to present the decision in simplistic terms and some offered trump card answers that served only to suppress debate and discussion.
- The break-up of one union has made the break-up of another more likely
Having voted to leave the European Union it was only a matter of time before the integrity of the United Kingdom came into fresh view (it was about three hours). Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, has suggested that the future of Scotland is in the EU, sparking talk of a second independence referendum north of the border. There are also concerns over the impact of the EU vote on Northern Ireland with Sinn Fein calling for a referendum on a united Ireland.
- This was about control more than economics
The campaigns led with economic pledges, whether it was how much we would save by not having to contribute to the EU budget, or the impact on our economy of leaving and the cost to the average family by 2030. But polling from the day of the referendum suggest that economics was not the factor that played the biggest part in influencing how people voted. The biggest factor in how Leave voters cast their vote was the issue of regaining control of who made decisions that affected them.
- Loving our neighbours requires inviting them round to tea
We’ve voted to leave the EU, but our relationships with our European neighbours are vitally important. We may no longer be in the same Union, but we need to work hard to retain strong connections. Like real neighbours, we may live in separate houses, but there’s no need to make fences so high they block each other from view. It’s also nice to invite neighbours round for tea. We need to have stronger links with our European neighbours in the future and that will require work and knowing that many in our communities will have voted differently to us. We need to build relationships with those on our own street as well.
- Tim Farron is about the only English party leader in a secure position
With David Cameron announcing his resignation, Corbyn hit by a dozen resignations from his shadow cabinet, and UKIP wondering what the point in Nigel Farage is now the vote is over, only the Liberal Democrat leader is secure in his position. Having only taken over last year, leading the most pro EU party, and making up 1/8 of the party’s MPs, there was never much question of his status coming under threat; but watch out for the Lib Dems trying to hoover up disaffected Tories and Labour voters. Up in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon’s not going anywhere either.
- Boris wants to be prime minister
Possibly the least controversial statement imaginable. If in the next few days he rules himself out of the forthcoming Conservative leadership election, I’ll be more shocked than all the millennials in London were when they woke up to the referendum result. But his actions throughout the campaign, from siding with the Leave campaign, to his peroration in the BBC’s big debate a few days before the vote, were primed to put him in pole position.
- Politics needs us
If you looked at the campaigns over the past few months and were depressed at the state of play or the quality of people leading them, you’re in luck. Our country needs people willing and ready to step up and take responsibility. The temptation when facing a result like this is either complacency (if pleased), or antipathy (if unhappy); instead we need to be motivated to be a positive force in public life, to address the tough call to engage day-by-day in politics, in the messiness of campaigning and the brutal attrition of party politics. If we don’t, we are saying other people can do it better. (Just take a look at how that’s going.)
- We’ll get through this
I don’t think the next few years will either deliver the promises plastered to battle buses by the leave campaign, or the projections of catastrophe prophesied by the remain campaign. There is uncertainty in our financial markets, an opening at No 10, and a vast amount of negotiating to get on with before we actually leave the EU. But we’ll get through it. I say this from history and from faith. I look at the past and the struggles the UK has been through and I have confidence we will rise to the challenges of the coming years once again. And over and above all of that, God is in control, even when the landscape is disorientating; God is not perturbed even when we’re perplexed.
Join threads on Tuesday, 12 July for TEA talks: the future of the UK – a millennial response to Brexit. Rather than dwell on the decision that’s been made, threads is looking for the best way forward. Get your FREE ticket here.