Thoughts on …


Brexit – a global, good news story                                          24/12/17


The story of the birth of Jesus is a global story. Its celebration is a global celebration. The Christian religion, which began with the story of what happened two thousand years ago, is a global religion. The Christian message is a global message. It is not the only global message with a religious basis but for reasons rooted in history it has become well known throughout the world.


The Pope and other leaders of the Christian Church will talk about humanity in global terms when they share their Christmas and New Year thoughts. Sermons preached from church pulpits in this country and overseas will refer to what is happening across the globe and prayers will be said for those who are suffering anywhere in the world.


There will be an abundance of other global associations during the festive season as there always is. Food and drink from many different countries will be an essential part of the festivities; many Christmas presents will have been manufactured abroad; media coverage will be global with the focus on Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, and on Sydney on New Year’s Eve; and there will be an assortment of American films to while away the time.


Most importantly there will be a myriad of global communications with families and loved ones who live in other parts of the world. Technology and social media make this an easy process nowadays but traditional communications in the form of Christmas cards and letters will still be used.


The world includes Europe of course. We will be eating and drinking produce from our European neighbours and many people will be travelling to European destinations. But the world is much more than Europe. The global community is much more than the European community. When Britain leaves the EU it must continue to trade and do business with its neighbours but at the same time must look to develop its own connections with the wider world. I am optimistic it will be able to do this successfully.


However, it must renew its global presence in ways other than through trade and business.  Not by trying to become a global military power again but by doing the opposite: by becoming a global, peaceful force for good in the world.


The society we have forged here in the United Kingdom falls a long way short of being perfect. There are far too many people struggling on low incomes while others can afford the comforts and luxuries of modern life. There are too many people who are trapped in cycles of substance abuse, too many, especially among children, who suffer because of relationship problems and too many who are vulnerable or disadvantaged for various reasons. There is much more we can do to improve the lives of our fellow human beings in our own country.


But that should not prevent us from looking outwards, way beyond the European Union, to the rest of the world and helping to make it a better place for the whole of humanity. It is what we do already whenever the government sends our quota of financial aid or assists with emergencies. It is what we do when the government discusses matters of pressing concern with other members of the international community. It is what individuals do when they donate money to overseas charities or choose to work in countries where there is poverty, disease or conflict.


But we can do more. We can build on the enormous fund of instinctive compassion we have for our fellow human beings and argue for strong ethical and moral frameworks to guide the governance of all countries and the way they interact with each other. Our belief in the rule of law and democracy, however imperfect the structure of the latter may be, can be used as an example to nations where there is political and social instability. Our compassion, generosity, sense of fairness, tolerance, diversity, self-reliance, respect for others and generally friendly dispositions, can also be used to show the sort of values and attitudes that contribute to the health of a society.


We can offer a new kind of leadership to the global community. We can offer it quietly, gently and with humility, with no flag-waving and no air of self-importance. We can offer it respectfully, valuing other beliefs and traditions, whilst firmly putting the arguments for tolerance, human rights, fairness and democratic institutions. We can offer it in a spirit of neighbourliness, love and compassion.


We can show leadership in the way we trade and do business by ensuring there is absolutely no element of exploitation in our dealings. We can aim to pursue trade deals which directly benefit the disadvantaged. We can insist that the highest levels of integrity are applied to all transactions and that any attempts to avoid or evade tax are dealt with robustly.


In international affairs we can show leadership in bringing peace to the world by taking an active role in conflict resolution. We can take a lead in the long-overdue enterprise of strengthening the United Nations. And most ambitious of all we can take a lead in ridding the world of nuclear armaments by not renewing Trident.


The leadership we offer will be through the example we set, through argument and persuasion, and through mediation in disputes. Wherever possible we should aim to offer it in cooperation with other countries.

By leaving the EU we are embarking on a new course which will benefit this country economically and politically. If we choose to embark on a new course in terms of our global obligations we can help make the world a better place. This will require us to build on what we already do and commit ourselves to a strongly ethical approach to relations with other countries.


If we succeed in this ambitious endeavour this will be a good news story for the UK, for Europe and for the whole of humanity. It will be a different sort of Brexit story, a global good news story and a fitting story for Christmas and the New Year.


See also: The EU referendum and a global vision