Brexit: What Happened? And What’s Next?

Brexit: What Happened? And What’s Next? June 27, 2016

By David Binder. 



A day is a long time in politics.

At 10pm Thursday, 23 June, polling stations closed in regard to a UK-wide referendum of the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU).

In the words of The Clash: Would we stay or would we go?

The polls, betting markets, conventional wisdom, and even Nigel Farage (arguably the leading figure of the ‘Leave’ campaign) all indicated that we would vote to remain in the EU. How wrong they all were! By Friday morning, by a percentage of 52 to 48, Britain had made a decision that would send shockwaves throughout much of the world.

Brexit was the verdict, and barring a very unlikely second referendum, Article 50 will be invoked, and the two year (or perhaps longer) process to leave the EU club will begin in earnest.

It’s amusing that despite being asked to take on responsibility for such a monumental decision, relatively few people know that much about what the EU is or what it does. This is reflected in the fact that the second most Googled term by Brits on Friday, 24 June (a day after the referendum) was: ‘What is the EU?’ Let me explain.

In a nutshell, the EU is a collection of twenty-eight member states that originated (with just six nations) in a 1950 movement to ensure peace in a divided continent after the conclusion of WW2. In its current guise, it is comprised of four institutions: the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Council, and the European Court of Justice. These institutions have a number of functions that markedly affect each EU member state, from politics, to law making, and to trade (the EU is the UK’s largest trading partner for example).

So, why did so many (around 17.5 million) vote for Brexit?

There are probably a whole host of reasons.

Post-voting research shows that most in favour of remaining view social phenomena such as immigration, globalisation, multi-culturalism, and feminism in a predominantly positive light whilst the majority of those in favour of Brexit predominantly see them as the opposite. Therefore, it could be that those who see these concepts as negative, also see them as key bastions of the EU project. In addition, the idea of gaining back control from an unelected and out-of-touch elite was pertinent in many voter’s minds. In sum, the EU is seen by many as anti-democratic.

There’s also evidence to suggest that those who have been ‘left behind’ by the economic neo-liberal policies of the 1980s onwards tended to vote for Brexit. If true, then the remain campaign’s key warning that citizens would be worse off economically was always likely to have little traction. Indeed, old industrial areas such as those in the North of England which have seen pronounced economic decline in the last thirty years or so strongly voted in favour of Brexit.

Indeed, striking parallels can be drawn here between what’s going on in the UK and in the USA. Voters, feeling let down vis-à-vis the above social and economic realities, are increasingly turning to anti-establishment messages and candidates. The success stories of the leave campaign (which was seen as the anti-establishment side) and Donald Trump are two cases in point.

Back to the matter at hand, uncertainty reigns. The markets and the British pound are in sharp decline, thousands of jobs are seemingly under threat, the world of social media is in uproar, and talk of the UK breaking up altogether is in full swing.

There is then, much for UK Christians to be understandably concerned about. Yet I believe whatever the short, medium, and long term consequences of Brexit, Christians have nothing to fear.

I say this as someone who openly voted to remain in the EU. I believe we heavily rely on the EU for trade. More importantly though, I feel that there are strong gospel imperatives at play; being a member of the EU means that mission work, church planting, and the movement of individual Christians abroad is relatively straightforward. Being outside, however, means that Brits may be subject to extra layers of paperwork, bureaucracy, and domestic immigration rules. And yet I appreciate that many of my Christian brothers and sisters voted to leave, and they may well be correct on the matter! That’s okay, they’re still my friends!

While it’s right that Christians be active in voting for good government according to biblical priorities, God does not need our help; he is not waving his hands around in a blind panic saying, ‘Oh no, they’ve voted for Brexit, my plans to build my Church in Europe are in tatters!’ No, God has known since the beginning of time how this vote was going to go. Further, at times like this, it’s crucial we realise and rejoice in the fact that nothing can stop God’s plans to build his church in Europe and beyond, unite all things under the rule of his son Jesus and to build his people up in Christlikeness.

This isn’t to say that the fallout from Brexit won’t cause negativity and strife; our living standards could fall and/or we could lose our jobs. Alternatively, things may not change that much. At this point it is simply impossible to say. Let’s say the worst does happen though and the UK economy does suffer badly in the coming days, weeks, and months and we personally lose out significantly. This will cause hardship and suffering, yes, but my hope and prayer is that such circumstances will drive us more to Christ, the treasure we have in him, and help us long for our perfect eternal future. Christians should also be comforted that God has promised to give us what we need to get through every day. Hence, if Brexit drives Christians away from seeking security in the things of this world and more in the above truths, then it will have done a good thing.

I’ve also been struck by the strength of feeling following the result, from both sides. On the remain side, many (including Christians) have expressed views likening leave voters to idiots, racists, Nazis, and such like, while leavers (again, including Christians) have told remainers to essentially shut up, stop complaining, and respect the democratic process. I wonder whether such vitriol in both sides indicates within us (and I very much include myself here) an idolatrous attitude toward the things of this world, politics, our way of life, our living standards, democracy even. Sure, such things can be seen as good gifts from God, but as Christians, instead of gnashing our teeth and shouting at each other when such things are apparently lost, we should be reminding ourselves of what really matters.

The strength of feeling on both sides and social media, where people can vent their spleens uninhibited, can help create conditions for unhelpful divisiveness. It’s at times like this where we really need to be reminding ourselves that we have far more in common than not. That is, we’ve been brought together as a people not because of our political views, outlooks on life, or whatever else but because we’ve all been given the free gift of salvation, repentance, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Such a reality should provoke an attitude (both online and in the ‘real world’) of honesty, yes, but also of love, humility, service, and unity in the Gospel (Jesus Christ is Lord) and Word.

Brexit has provoked new levels of uncertainty in the UK and beyond, and with the US presidential election on the horizon, it may not be the last world event to do so! Yet, whatever happens, Christians know that they have a loving father who is in total control of all things and is working everything for the good of his children, that we may become more like Jesus. Let’s remember this in the coming weeks and months.

David Binder profile picDavid Binder is a London-based journalist and freelance writer specialising in Christianity, discipleship, politics, various areas of social policy, and more. He tweets at @davidpaulbinder and more examples of his work can be read here:


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