At this election Brexit is the primary policy issue in many voters’ minds.

This is because it is the policy area that prompted the early election, and has been the dominant issue in UK politics for the last 3 or 4 years. This isn’t to say that it is the most important issue – that is a matter for debate – but certainly worthy of engaging with and considering the key issues at play and how as Christians we should engage. 

Brexit isn’t just one issue but multiple overlapping issues. Perhaps it’s helpful to break it down into a series of policy questions:

  • Should the result of the 2016 referendum be implemented?
  • Is the deal agreed by the government one which achieves Brexit?
  • How does the Brexit agreement affect each of the four nations of the UK, in particular relationships between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?
  • Should there be a second public vote on a withdrawal agreement?
  • What sort of arrangement should the UK seek with the EU at the end of the transition period (December 2020)? And if no final agreement is settled, should the transition be extended?
  • How much of EU legislation that has been incorporated into UK law should be maintained, and how much should be removed?
  • What principles should guide future trade relationships with countries beyond the EU?

The parties at this election disagree on many of the above issues, below are summaries of their positions:

Conservatives:Pass the deal agreed by Boris Johnson and the EU, which would see the UK leave the EU in January 2020. The future arrangement would then be discussed with the intent not to extend the transition beyond the end of 2020.

Labour: Would seek a further extension to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement which would include a new customs union and a close single market with the EU, this deal would then be put to the people with the option to either implement this deal or to remain in the UK. Labour have said they will decide whether they campaign for the deal or to remain after the deal has been agreed. 

Liberal Democrats:Following a party vote in September 2019 the Liberal Democrats would cancel Brexit if they were in power after the General Election. Prior to the election they continued to back a second referendum, but as that has not happened are now committed to revoking Article 50 and remaining in the EU.

Brexit Party: The deal agreed by Boris Johnson has been strongly criticised as not delivering the​‘clean Brexit’ they argue was voted for in 2016. They have not at the time of writing provided detail about what they would do, but want a strong election victory for a​‘Leaver alliance’. They have also stood down candidates standing in seats the Conservative party currently hold.

SNP: They have consistently opposed Brexit in parliament, voting against both Theresa May and Boris Johnson’s deal. The SNP have pressed to rule out a no deal Brexit and now are campaigning to halt or revoke Article 50 and have a new referendum on UK membership of the EU.

The Remain Alliance: The Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats have agreed a non-aggression pact for 60 seats. This will primarily affect seats in Wales where Plaid and the Lib Dems will not compete to assist a candidate committed to the UK remaining in the EU. It will also benefit the Liberal Democrats in a small number of English seats where they are taking on small majorities, however the bigger swings in their sights will require a substantial shift of votes from Labour or the Conservatives to achieve victory. 

Is there a Christian perspective on Brexit?

No. But yes. 

Christians will in good conscience take different views on whether the UK should remain in the EU or leave, at the 2016 referendum this was the case, and it remains so now. Likewise Christians will differ as to what should happen as result of the referendum outcome. For some implementing the result is a crucial component of a democratic society, while for others concern about how the referendum took place means it lacks legitimacy. Others still would argue that the result was valid, but only a partial instruction and the last few years have demonstrated the complexity and now a more specific outcome is in view this requires a further public vote. 

There will also be a range of opinions about the desired future relationship between the UK and the EU, and the type of trade relationships the UK seeks with global partners. These are points of legitimate disagreement for Christians and even if positions are held with particular passion it is important that we do not fuel alienation and polarisation of opinion by suggesting some views should not be held by Christians. 

There are some principles that Christians will want to hold firmly regardless of their view on Brexit. We should oppose the polarisation of views and the categorisation of difference into bands of right and wrong. We should model good speech in political discourse and respect for those who think differently, we should listen to those who view the world in fundamentally different ways to us. 

Second, there are important principles for the outcome of any policy decision. We should be conscious of the affect decisions will have on the poorest in our communities, and on the most vulnerable in the UK and across the world. There will be disagreement on what policies best prioritise the welfare of the weakest in our world, but that we prioritise it should be a non-negotiable for Christians. 

Finally, as Christians we should emphasise love for our neighbour, and the future relationship with the EU does not need to affect this. Whether we have freedom of movement across borders or not we should love those at home and abroad, but also reach out to all people with the message of Jesus. We should therefore speak up when Brexit is used as a cover to turn difference and distance into division. We love those who are our physical neighbours and we extend love across borders and boundaries to reach all people for Christ. 

Questions to ask your candidates

  1. How will you ensure that Brexit does not further the polarisation of political engagement?
  2. What will you do, regardless of the Brexit outcome, to ensure that the most deprived communities are prioritised in the future?
  3. What steps will you take to boost relationships in local communities and across national boundaries in the next few years?