According to Alastair Campbell, Brexit can’t be done. That’s apparently what Theresa May has concluded and, if she were honest and any kind of leader, that’s what she’d tell the electorate and her party. He suggests the words which ought to come out of her mouth:
“But precisely because I have a profound sense of duty, I want to tell you the absolute truth as I see it. It cannot be done. Yes, you can shout. You can storm out. But I have looked at it every which way. And, as your leader, I have concluded that it cannot be done without enormous damage to our economy, to your living standards, to our public services, to our standing in the world. This is damage I am not prepared to inflict. The cost is too high.”
There is, of course, some distance between saying something “can’t be done” and weighing the consequences of doing so as being “too high”. Even if the costs of Brexit are too high, it may manifestly still be done, or the true scale of those costs (if they exist) can never be established.
And so it came to pass that the EU Referendum yielded the ‘wrong answer’ (just like the referendums held in Denmark, France, Ireland, Greece and the Netherlands), and the people must be asked again in order to secure the ‘correct’ result (or, better still, Parliament should simply ignore the ‘advisory’ referendum result, revoke their triggering of Article 50, and go cap in hand to Brussels with a fulsome apology on behalf of 17,410,742 recalcitrant Britons who are an embarrassment to the nation).
If Brexit can’t be done – if the majority of the voting public may never gain secession from the EU – then Ted Heath lied when he assured the people in 1971: “There is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereignty.” As Ian Marten MP observed (rather presciently) during the debate on the White Paper (line 1508):
People say that we shall not lose our sovereignty. Indeed, the White Paper says that there is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereignty. That depends on what is meant by “essential national sovereignty”. But let us trot through the list of powers which we shall have to transfer from this Parliament to Europe. On signature, we transfer the right to make trade agreements with third countries. We transfer our policy over agriculture. By 1973 the value-added tax has to be harmonised at the European level, whatever it is. By 1980 we shall have monetary union and probably a common currency with a federal reserve bank in Europe.
We are told that we must go in for defence reasons ; in other words, to relieve the Americans of some of their burden, presumably, of conventional weapons in Europe. We shall have to take over part of that burden. If we do that the sensible thing is to integrate the European armies under one European commander. [Interruption.] We have N.A.T.O. aleady with the Americans in it. I do not see, if it is to be just N.A.T.O., how there will be any improvement in the security of Europe. Clearly, something more will happen.
Once we get a major matter like defence debated in a European Parliament with a European Government taking decisions, foreign affairs will be brought in and people will say that they want unity in foreign policy. It seems that all the major aspects of our life will at the end of the day be transferred to the European Parliament and the European Government. This is what the debate ought to be about. These matters ought to have been discussed in the negotiations so that the British people know where they are being led.
We may quibble over definitions of sovereignty, and cavil over what aspects of it may or may not be essential, but if the people – in whom democratic sovereignty (by definition) resides – may never reverse the decision to join the EEC; if they may never vote to repeal the European Communities Act 1972; if they may never reverse the 1975 referendum result, then essential national sovereignty has not merely been eroded; it has been abolished. It has gone altogether.
‘Your sovereignty has been removed’ (Daniel 4:31, NASB).
The judgment of God upon King Nebuchadnezzar is a constant reminder that the kingdoms of the earth belong to the Lord: they are His to give, and His to take away. Throughout the entire history of Israel, God judged its rebellion and idolatry by permitting numerous invasions by foreign powers: ‘And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant…’ (Jer 27:6).
If Brexit “can’t be done”, perhaps we are destined to sit and weep in captivity by the rivers of Babylon, as the Lord’s servants Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker faithfully do His divine will, as the Bishops (except +Shrewsbury) long for and pray.