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The Christadelphian | June 2013

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Forgiven sins
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning Taught in “the beauty of holiness” | Malcolm Shilvock
  • The Prophecy of Nahum 06 – “Art thou better than populous No?” | Mark Allfree
  • Fellowship offerings | Steve Weston
  • Medical ethics and the Bible 03 – Giving & receiving blood donations | Simon Parsons
  • For better, for worse … 06 – Samson & his wife | Mark Vincent
  • Israel’s Geography 06 – The mountain of the Lord’s house | Nathan Kitchen
  • Faith Alive! Jonathan, the son of a king | Michael Movassaghi
  • Book reviews Hebrews | John M. Hellawell
  • Readers’ Q&A
  • Signs of the times Britain & Europe: a fork in the road | Stephen Whitehouse
  • Israel and their land Syria: the conflict spreads
  • Epilogue Why | Rachel Yuile
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Signs of the times

Britain & Europe: a fork in the road

FOR some time now many leading business commentators have had us believe that British business is fully supportive of the European Union (EU). While this may have been true at one time or other, it appears that something has changed.

A changed relationship?

Just this last month, over five hundred business leaders – from top FTSE 100 bosses to entrepreneurs – signed up to a campaign called “Business for Britain”. This movement is attempting to convince the UK’s politicians of the need to renegotiate Britain’s powers back from Brussels. If we have been following the news, we shall be aware that such a protest has been sparked by the number of rules that have been pushed through by the European Union (EU) in recent months. For instance, there has been the extra-territorial Eurozone Tobin tax, the proposed changes to insurance rules, plus the bonus cap. Many UK business and banking heads have said that these EU measures are damaging the competitiveness of London and the UK. Recently a poll by the British Chamber of Commerce found two thirds of businesses believe repatriating some powers back from Brussels would boost the UK economy.

It’s not only the business and banking leaders who have been challenging the government to rethink Britain’s relationship with Brussels. The British public have also been having their say. The Eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) has just shocked Britain’s political establishment by winning roughly one quarter of the vote in local elections held on May 2. This was not expected at all, not even by the most optimistic of UKIP supporters. And a recent YouGov poll conducted by The Times found that forty-six per cent of voters want to leave the EU, with thirty-five per cent wanting to stay and twenty per cent still unsure.

A number of leading political faces from the Conservative Party – both past and present – have also been saying the same thing. Nigel Lawson, the former pro-EU Chancellor of the Exchequer who served under Mrs Thatcher from 1983 to 1989, has just called for Britain to leave the EU in an article in The Times on May 7. This was soon followed up by vocal backing from Michael Portillo, another former government minister. Probably more significantly, two current leading cabinet members of the Conservatives have also voiced their views that Britain should leave the EU. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, and the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, both said that they would vote for Britain to exit the EU if a referendum were held now. “I am not happy with our position in the European Union but my preference is for a change in Britain’s relationship with the European Union,” said Mr Gove. “Life outside would be perfectly tolerable, we could contemplate it, there would be certain advantages.” Being openly Eurosceptic, and willing to consider withdrawal from the EU if negotiations with Brussels do not go well, is now a view held by many, if not the majority, of Conservative MPs. Mr Gove went on to say that he backed the Prime Minister’s strategy to seek the return of powers from Europe before an ‘in-out’ referendum by 2017 if the Conservatives were to win the next general election in 2015. And now a total of 114 Conservative MPs have broken ranks by backing an unprecedented amendment to the Queen’s Speech, expressing “regret” that it did not contain a Bill to support Mr Cameron’s promise of a referendum before 2017.

But it’s not just the Conservatives. Even some in the Labour Party are breaking ranks. A senior Labour MP has just called for his party to back an ‘in-out’ referendum on Europe and was among thirteen Labour MPs who joined a group which will campaign for a referendum to be included in their party’s manifesto.

While all this has been going on in Britain, in stark contrast the EU continues to push for further integration amongst its member states. The European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, recently spoke on the “Blueprint for a Deep and Genuine Economic and Monetary Union”. He was rallying European leaders to form a stronger fiscal, banking and political union, and said that Europe’s economic crisis is encouraging political unity. “Intensified political union” in Europe, he said, is a “key complement to fiscal and economic integration … Europe’s economic interdependence – so strikingly highlighted by the financial crisis – calls for increased political integration.”

From London’s perspective, it is clear that access to the EU and the Single Market is important, both for London itself and for Britain. Being plugged in to this larger market underpins London’s position as Europe’s financial capital, which is a major asset for the UK and Europe. Yet, it is also becoming clear that if the EU continues to interfere – adding legislative measures and regulatory constraints here and there – then London and the UK may decide to look elsewhere for business. So, while Europe continues to bind itself together more tightly into not only a commercial but also a political superstate, Britain continues to express increasing displeasure with her relationship with the EU.

Departing from the beast system

It has long been felt by many Christadelphians that Britain, at some stage, would part from the EU – departing from the Roman beast system of Revelation 17 prior to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is also interesting to read that many economists are encouraging British business to trade more with the Commonwealth. And why wouldn’t Britain do this seeing that many of these countries like India, Australia and Canada (referred to as the “big three”) are not hampered by poor economic growth figures like Europe, but are growing commercial markets? Economists predict that as the forces of twenty-first century globalization gather pace, the Commonwealth countries will grow in relative importance. So, over the longer term, if the UK is going to grow then she will need to shift her focus from relatively stagnant markets to the world’s future growth markets. Surely, on all of this evidence alone, it’s only a matter of time before Britain and the EU part ways.

Stephen Whitehouse

 

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