Confessions of an unlikely ‘Leave’ voter

I’ve been playing with the idea of writing this for the last two months, during which I have been without a laptop. (For those who don’t know, the house I have been living in got broken into one Saturday afternoon, and my housemate and I returned from ‘Healing on the Streets’ to find our few valuables gone). That’s another story – the relevant part for now is that due to an act of great generosity I am now in possession of a laptop once again. Praise God! Blogging can resume.

Nearly two months after Brexit seems a little late to be ruminating on the event, but the run up and aftermath of the referendum taught me several things, which now that I am able, I’d like to share, because it seems the majority of people in my age group voted differently to me, and so far, I have not had the opportunity to talk about it at length.

You will no doubt have surmised from the title that I voted to leave the European Union.

I am 23 years old. I am university-educated, a graduate of a Humanities subject. I live in London.

My mother is German and my father was born on the Portuguese island of Madeira.

According to polling statistics, I am the most unlikely of ‘Leave’ voters.

Several I have spoken to since Brexit have either been surprised to learn that I voted to leave, or they simply assumed that I voted to stay, and expressed their feelings in my presence, oblivious.

On more than one occasion, people’s expression of surprise when I ‘confessed’ my vote has stemmed from the knowledge that my parents are not British. If you too are surprised by my decision on this basis, you should probably read on.

If you voted to Remain, then congratulations, you’re in the majority of my friendship group, and I’m sure that you had as good reasons for voting to stay as I did to leave! This post is not about criticising your choice. But I hope that by sharing my reasons for voting ‘Leave’, I may offer a different perspective and perhaps go some way toward encouraging you.

If you asked me a year ago what I would do if I were given a vote on the EU, I would have said ‘I’d vote to stay’ without hesitation. The idea of leaving the EU would have seemed to me to be tied up in some kind of superiority complex I believed the UK held about the rest of Europe. It would have seemed a foolish move economically as well as a rejection of the UK’s tolerant, hospitable identity. It would have also been a kind of rejection of my own cultural identity – I like to consider myself a ‘cosmopolitan’ and a break from the EU would be like a denial of my heritage.

But that’s when my views were based on feelings, concepts and the left-wing ideologies that a university degree in Humanities almost inevitably encourages. They were rooted little in factual evidence.

For the record, I am not a patriot (hard to be a patriot when you are basically a third culture kid), and I still feel more ‘European’ than ‘British’. So let that be your frame of reference as you continue to read, if you still want to.

My cultural background and desire to feel ‘European’ were not good enough reasons to vote to stay, and after all, I don’t have to be a patriot to want the best future for my country and I don’t have to stop enjoying the benefits of European culture simply because the UK is no longer part of its political institution.

I have no problem admitting that my decision was informed largely by the views of people around me. Looking at the demographics of the Remain voters, it appears it was the same for them.

I have the immense privilege of being able to work alongside some really intelligent, and, more crucially, independently and critically-thinking colleagues.

I was also blessed to attend a meeting in the House of Lords shortly before the referendum, during which MPs and some experienced and politically-knowledgeable Christian leaders presented their arguments for Brexit. It would have been strange for me not to take any of this on board.

My vote had nothing to do with xenophobia (obviously) or the ‘make Britain great again’ rhetoric that plastered TV screens, internet news sites and posters for weeks. (I barely saw any of it, having been without a laptop and a television).

Racism aside, I do think that concerns over immigration were valid. But the immigration argument alone wouldn’t have satisfied me. I swung back and forth between Remain and Leave several times. I knew everyone at work was going to vote Leave (though the organisation didn’t take an official position, just in case you’re wondering). I knew most of my friends were going to vote Remain. I needed good reasons to base my decision on and the only good ones I heard were coming from the Brexiteers. I kept dithering because I was waiting for a convincing argument to come from a Remainer, particularly a Christian Remainer. But none came.

So I prayed, listened, weighed up and tried to look past fear-mongering and Nigel Farage and politicians mocking one another and the terrible murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.

In the end, my vote came down to the basic principles of democracy and political autonomy and accountability. Having heard from older, wiser people, I gained some understanding of how the EU operates and the impact it has on the UK’s autonomy. The Bible shows us that God is not in favour of government that becomes too extensive. (The Tower of Babel is the clearest example of this). The idea of each nation governing itself is supported in the Bible, for it prevented man from gaining absolute power and making an idol of himself.

If that weren’t enough to consider, the EU, whilst founded with good intentions, is built on a very secular constitution.

The EU’s influence on Britain’s law-making concerned me. The ultra-liberal assisted suicide policies in Belgium and the Netherlands are one example of what secular constitutions have offered these nations. It’s possible that Brexit afforded Britain some protection against the introduction of policies like this.

The UK was built on Judeo-Christian values, as set down in the Magna Carta 800 years ago. I don’t pretend that the UK still adheres to some of these values, but would leaving the EU help to prevent them from disintegrating still further?

The biggest question, though, was whether God specifically wanted us in or out. The referendum was not a black and white biblical issue, but if God cares about my daily moments, why wouldn’t He care about the path of a nation? The referendum, everyone agreed, was a big decision that would have big consequences. I knew He would work out His purposes either way, but was one way better for us than the other?

The co-founder of my workplace is a Nigerian pastor who truly knows the Lord and frequently gets revelations about what God is doing and is going to do. So when he told us that he believed Brexit was ‘God’s mercy’, I took it into serious consideration. He said that if Brexit were to happen, it would essentially take ’40 days instead of 40 years’ to enter into God’s promises.

So could it be that God really wanted us out?

The day of the referendum dawned in London after one of the biggest storms I’d witnessed in a long time. The damage and flooding was bad enough to severely disrupt travel all over the city as well as commuter travel. There were reports that some people even struggled to get home from work in time to cast their vote (So I guess some never made it to the ballot).

The following day dawned a cloudless blue and I checked BBC news on my phone upon waking up, blinking in the bright sunlight, and could hardly believe what I saw.

Brexit shocked me as much as anyone else. Like many ‘Leave’ voters I didn’t really expect the result, but I didn’t gloat because I saw confusion, anger and disappointment all around me. It was a sober and quiet ‘victory’; for although I felt sure that in the long run this was the right thing, I could see that the short-term consequences were going to be painful.

In only three short weeks, the UK’s political system was unmistakably shaken, with loss, gain and exchange of power at a very rapid pace.

It was confusing and strange and very uncertain, but amongst my workplace at least there was excitement. Such a shaking could only be God’s doing – who is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked” (Ephesians 1:21), who “changes times and seasons; he deposes Kings and raises up others” (Daniel 2:21), who “from one man… made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands”. (Acts 17:26).

After the referendum whilst praying one day, the Lord simply gave me Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the Earth”.

So I am confident that the Lord, who is merciful and compassionate, will bring restoration to the UK – but only if His church cry out to Him – “Now if my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land” (1 Chronicles 7:14).

If we want this nation to once again honour God in its ways and laws, then the Church must be the first to model what this looks like.

Our hope, after all, does not lie in politics, but in Jesus Christ. So ultimately it doesn’t matter if you think Brexit was the ‘right decision’ or not. It only matters that we ground our faith on the only solid rock, and model to the world what it looks like to have this hope, steadfast and sure.

That means loving our neighbour (foreigner or native) in a radical counteraction to some of the hatred seen in the media (and social media) post-referendum. It means reconciliation with those who voted differently than you.

It means putting rest to the venom I have seen directed towards the older generation who apparently ‘ruined our futures’. As though, despite living through a World War and the greatest change a generation has likely ever seen in their lifetime, they should not have been given a say in the future of the nation.

It means understanding the issues affecting our nation right now and speaking for righteousness and truth no matter what kind of rejection it costs you. It means no compromise.

This is where my prayers lie – that the Church would wake up and respond in these fast-moving, uncertain times.

God’s will for our nation is that it becomes a nation under Him. Brexit in itself will not secure this outcome. But perhaps if we as believers could see it as an opportunity to be praying and acting into, rather than simply a symptom of how messed up we all are, we would see Him do a mighty work.

“Look at the nations and watch– and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habbakuk 1:5).