We are posting this on Friday morning rather than on Saturday so for all we know lots of things will change in this fast-moving post-referendum situation. We can’t even be sure whether David Cameron will be the Prime Minister by the time you read this. We don’t think he is sure either.
Anyway, we thought we might forego the usual run of pretty pictures and just make a few preliminary comments.
We refrained from commenting on the referendum for various reasons but lack of concern was not one of them. Like most British people living in the EU we voted for Britain to remain. Not of course that we think European Union is perfect; far from it. But had you asked us for three arguments in favour of the European Union I think we would have responded as follows.
1) Although the EU is flawed and has suffered from delusions of grandeur, the fundamental vision of peaceful and cooperative Europe is a noble and right one. As the history of the last century showed, a Europe divided is a dangerous place.
2) Although there are elements of EU legislation that have been burdensome, many of its regulations have actually had the purpose of protecting the weak and vulnerable from the ravages of the unscrupulous. This is the particularly the case with the environment and we doubt you will find a single environmentalist celebrating the Leave vote. (Curiously enough on the day before the vote Chris was involved in a two-hour online committee discussion with a dozen European conservationists trying to formulate a strategy for preservation of wetlands in a time of climate change. Thankfully, he narrowly escaped being made chair. That would have been so embarrassing.)
3) Pragmatically, it has always seemed to us that this was a badly thought out referendum in which the consequences of any leave vote were not only not explained, they were not even thought about. It always looked to be a leap in the dark down a deep pit. Well, we are now going to find out how deep the pit is and what’s at the bottom.
Certainly watching the debate from over here we have found it profoundly depressing. There has been a long respect for the British politics over here – Chris caught someone on one of the French stations talking about the UK being “the cradle of the parliamentary system”. However any sense of superiority has evaporated amid a miserable campaign that with very few exceptions seemed to appeal to everybody’s worst instincts.
Personally? Although there are various horror stories circulating in the press about the unease of Britons abroad we are thankfully in a far more secure position than most. We own property in France, we both pay French tax and we are registered with the French health system. Very soon we will be changing our driving licences to French ones. And after that?
Anyway the fact is, as some people are now realising, this is not an end but the start of a process, a process that is not only unmapped but one which will stretch on for years. To use an understatement, it is going to be interesting to see how it develops. The implications are almost beyond calculation. Just to take two instances. So, there are not just half a million British people in France but half a million people French people in Britain playing a vital part in both economies. All current British passports state that we are members of the European Union: is everybody going to have to request new ones? It’s going to be a splendid time for lawyers.
It’s at times like this that as Christians we are very grateful that God is in control and that our ultimate allegiance is not to the UK, France or the EU but to a Kingdom that is not subject to crises.