England’s Brexit Paralysis: Lord, Help Us!

COMMENTARY: To put it lightly, the situation is a farce.

(photo: Shutterstock)

In case you missed it, the United Kingdom is currently experiencing something of a political crisis with the present “Brexit” deadlock. Yes, the nation that gave the world William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen; the country that gave the globe Sir Isaac Newton, John Harrison and George Stephenson; and the Parliament that gave the planet Thomas More, William Wilberforce and Winston Churchill is currently unable to pull itself together to agree on a way to exit what is essentially an economic trading bloc that has been established for little over 60 years.

The situation is such that, according to The Daily Telegraph, a senior government minister recently confirmed that one option might be to ask Queen Elizabeth II to veto any legislation drawn up by backbench members of Parliament that seeks to water down Brexit — a power that the monarch has not used since Queen Anne vetoed the Scottish Militia Act in 1707.

Alternatively, Catholic Brexiteer and Member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg has suggested that Prime Minister Theresa May should prorogue (essentially shut down) Parliament if MPs are successful in eliminating the possibility of a “no deal” Brexit (“no deal” being an outcome whereby trade would revert to World Trade Organization rules).

You can take your pick from dozens of other unconventional methods that have been planned and plotted by MPs in recent months; either to derail parliamentary proceedings or to ensure they don’t deviate an inch from their current trajectory. To put it lightly, the situation is a farce.

In the turbulent world we live in, to any prudent mind, the situation is also something of a concern: For whenever the legitimacy of the democratic process is put under threat it is reason enough to cause unease. And, regrettably, the past few years in this country have seen not insignificant concerns raised with respect to manifestations of anti-Semitism and far-right inclinations within both political and public spheres.

The chief concern, however, that remains on the minds of most pundits and politicians the length and breadth of the country is that of the economic fallout of a disorderly Brexit (i.e., Britain leaving the European Union without a mutually agreed withdrawal agreement).

Whatever side of the Brexit divide (leave or remain) one falls on, be they politicians, economists, journalists, businesspeople or simply plain ol’ members of the public — it is generally taken that such an exit would be a “commercial catastrophe,” “monetary disaster,” “economic Armageddon” or any other anxiety-inducing phrase to communicate the inevitable financial tragedy that will ensue.

In this at least, opinion appears to be united.

As a Catholic looking in on this situation, I find what astounds most is the pompous and arrogant determination of our nation’s leaders — and it should be said, those of the European Union, also — to muddle through this intractable mess and seek to find solutions in one’s own strength, using one’s own knowledge, relying upon one’s own insights. Despite nearly all of Britain’s postwar prime ministers being self-confessed Christians, it seems to still be the case, in the words of former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s communications strategist, Alastair Campbell, that “we don’t do God” — at least not publicly or in any meaningful way, anyway. This is all a great shame, for our politicians and the wider public alike, because little do they recognize that without recourse to the Lord’s wisdom and guidance, he “… brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples” (Psalm 33:10).

It wasn’t always this way, of course; and one doesn’t have to look too far to realize so — certainly not if you happen to be one of the U.K.’s members of Parliament. For upon the tiled mosaic floor of the Central Lobby of the Palace of Westminster (to give the Houses of Parliament their proper name), there is adorned the words in Latin, from the first verse of Psalm 127: Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam … (“Except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that built it”). Now, if the average Latin of our MPs is anything like as nonexistent as mine is, I grant they can be forgiven for missing that one.

However, in this very “core of the Palace of Westminster” — designed, as it still remains, as a central meeting place for MPs to greet their constituents — it is nigh on impossible that they should also miss the four resplendently glistening mosaics of the patron saints of these Isles — St. George (England), St. David (Wales), St. Andrew (Scotland) and St. Patrick (Ireland) — depicted above the four arched entrances to this lobby.

There can be little doubt that our leaders of old recognized at least something of the fact that we haven’t been left alone in this world, without some kind of divine guidance and help from above.

Such is the present state of disarray and confusion in Westminster that many have said the current events represent the worst political crisis our nation has faced since the end of the Second World War. That is debatable. However, what is not debatable is the fact that when faced with significant national crises during both the First and Second World Wars, our leaders knew where to turn for solutions.

For it was on Aug. 4, 1918, the fourth anniversary of the declaration of war, that King George V called for a National Day of Prayer. One hundred days later, the First World War ended. And again, during the Second World War, when the British army was all but defeated and in desperate retreat to the northernmost coastal towns of France, King George VI called for a National Day of Prayer, to be held May 26, 1940, to commit the nation’s cause to God.

The resulting safe evacuation of some 338,000 soldiers was soon to be hailed as “the Miracle of Dunkirk.”

Regarding the current crisis, our present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in an address to the Women’s Institute organization, recently called for a “coming together to seek out the common ground”; however, as yet, there has been no reference or call to prayer.

In this climate of national discord and disunity, how wonderful it would be, and what an opportunity presents itself to the bishops of our country, Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox alike — along with leaders from other Christian denominations — to show a united and harmonious front at a time of great need and to call for a National Day of Prayer. In choosing any such prayer to be recited, our bishops could take as their inspiration the prayer that is read out every day before the commencement of business in the House of Commons:

“Lord, the God of righteousness and truth, grant to our Queen and her government, to Members of Parliament and all in positions of responsibility, the guidance of your Spirit. May they never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals, but laying aside all private interests and prejudices keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve the condition of all mankind; so may your kingdom come and your name be hallowed. Amen.”

 Mark Banks is a freelance writer and editor from London, England.

He has a degree in economics from the University of Surrey.