One lesson the church can learn from current Brexit travails

The whole Brexit saga is continuing to drag on. The Guardian reported yesterday that Jeremy Corbyn was heading for a clash with his own party as he sought delay Brexit decision. Others continue pushing for extensions and delays. Leaving aside their various reasons and motives, many people – leave or remain – are simply sick to the back teeth of it. Whilst leavers, on the whole, just want us to leave, many remainers – those with a more democratic bent (which I am inclined to believe is most of them) – also want us to just get on with it and, though not what they originally wanted, to leave because that was the result.

The wrangling in parliament has, of course, caused other problems. Had we left early on with, for example, a Norway-style deal we could have taken ourselves out and – should we be so inclined – attempted to renegotiate any other sort of deal we wished over the long-term. We would take an ‘off the shelf’ agreement and, such that we were inclined to do it, could seek to amend it later. But all of that was blocked and stymied by parliamentary liberals who blocked just about every conceivable attempt to get out.

The great irony here is that the hard right – whom the liberals fear the most – have been emboldened because of their intransigence. Nigel Farage, who had long been lined up to retire, suddenly made a comeback. Not any comeback, but a comeback with a new party that swept the European elections. Had we left early on with a Norway-style deal, Farage would be gone and the Brexit Party non-existent. But repeated attempts to deny the result of the referendum meant that Farage came back with a vengeance. Similarly, people have been jumping out of the traditional parties in number. Traditional Labour voters, who typically voted leave, are abandoning the party and many Conservative voters have jumped ship to the Brexit Party. The SDP has picked up a good number of disaffected former party members and floating voters too.

Perhaps most egregiously, Brexit has simply stymied every other pressing domestic issue. All things can be swept under the carpet in the name of negotiating with Europe or trying to push through whatever new attempt to get something through parliament has been cobbled together. In the meantime, the problems in the NHS have not disappeared, educational matters that require attention are ignored and various domestic matters are simply ignored. I’m suspect departments are continuing to handle their business – by which I mean, continuing the programmes and idea they have been working on – but accountability is now non-existent. Everything is sucked into the black hole that is Brexit.

My purpose in writing this is not so much to make any specific point about Brexit. I’ve made those elsewhere and we’re not exactly short on comment. My purpose is to ask: what is the major lesson here? Surely, if there is a lesson to be learnt, it is the importance of getting on with what needs to be done. Had we simply left with an off-the-shelf agreement (at least in the short-term), many of the issues we are now facing would simply have been avoided altogether. Most of the last two and a bit years would have been spent planning for the known consequences of the new setup.

In the church, I wonder whether we might learn this same lesson. There are times when things simply need to be done. We can wait, put them off, hope they will go away. But until such time as the thing is done, other problems arise and the matter in hand gets no better. Sometimes, little as we may want to do it, a decision must be taken and – when it is – ultimately enacted. If Brexit offers us any lessons, it is surely the importance of getting on with what we say we will do and, rather than trying to stymie the decision, use the time to plan for the way things will now be.