Second KLICE Comment June 2016

A Biblical Case for Brexit

James Crabtree has been a practising solicitor in an international law firm based in London for thirty years. He is the co-author of two books in the fields of insurance and sale of goods law. He is a member of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship and a past Chairman of Church Society. He is married with two children. This is an extended version of an article published by Lawyers' Christian Fellowship and appears by permission of the author and LCF.

This is one of a set of KLICE Comment pieces commissioned to reflect various political views. Others can be found on our EU Referendum page. KLICE has no official position on the Referendum.

Christians are called to consider all issues objectively, under God's Word, seeking the glory of God in all things and the good of others. To this extent, the Brexit debate is no different from any other controversy.

There are many aspects of EU membership to consider. This analysis addresses the stewardship of resources and accountability. The chief duty of all governments, ordained by an all-seeing, sovereign God, is to minister for our good (Romans 13:1-4). This demands the practice of justice and righteousness, entailing wise stewardship of resources and conscientious service, which includes refraining from wrongdoing, as well as protection of the weak and vulnerable. ‘Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength. By me kings reign and rulers decree justice’ (Proverbs 8:14-15).

Jeremiah exhorted kings to ‘do justice and righteousness’, to deliver the oppressed ‘from the hand of the oppressor’ and to ‘do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow…’ These exhortations were not proclaimed without warning: ‘But if you will not hear these words...this house shall become a desolation’ (Jeremiah 22:3-5). Benefits flow from obedience to God’s Word; indeed, nations benefit, since ‘righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people’ (Proverbs 14:34).

Wise stewardship requires the prudent allocation of national resources, most notably tax revenue but also careful control of national borders. People movement and resource allocation are inextricably linked. It is intrinsic to the biblical obligation to pay taxes that tax revenue should be used in ministry for our good; this is one of the bases on which we are called to honour our government (Romans 13:6-7) The relationship between government and the governed becomes strained when tax revenue is misallocated, rather than spent for the nation’s good.

UK membership of the EU shows that a national government which is obliged to pay substantial tax revenue each year to supranational institutions, which are under no obligation to spend that revenue for the benefit of the paying nation, is unable to ensure that there is wise stewardship of public finances and hence hindered in its fulfilment of its divinely ordained role as God's minister for our good. What matters from a Christian perspective is how our own money is spent and many examples could be cited of EU profligacy. Both past experience and the trajectory of future developments require consideration.

Past experience has shown that one major dimension is the cost of regulation relative to economic output. It has been widely recognised that the EU projects of integration and harmonisation have led to excessive regulation and stifled competition. According to the European Commission's own figures, published in 2006, the annual administrative cost to European businesses of both EU and national regulation was then a remarkable six hundred billion euros [1] (excluding compliance costs); all the more extraordinary when, according to the same source, the single market contributed a mere one fifth of this figure to EU GDP. And this was before the Eurozone crisis, which continues to pursue its destructive path through the economies of Europe at the same time as yet more regulation is imposed and contemplated. The plan of the European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry to reduce business regulation by 25% by 2012 [2] (producing a boost to EU output of 150 billion euros) has never been implemented. Indeed, between 2005 - 2008, the European Commission increased the overall number of EU laws by around 4700. As at September 2007, there were 170,000 pages of live EU legislation.  According to the IMF, the EU’s share of world GDP, assessed by reference to the combined economies of its member states, has fallen by more than 50% between 1973 and 2015, with no reversal in sight [3].

Continued membership of the EU would therefore entail financial commitment to a still over-regulated and economically deteriorating customs union, whose structures and operations are immensely complex, if not opaque, absorbing countless billions of tax revenue which could be put to better use. It is extremely difficult to reconcile biblical principles of stewardship with any ongoing investment of public money in the EU project.

Turning to future trajectory, following the global financial crisis which surfaced in 2008 and the parallel Eurozone crisis, clarity as to the EU’s planned course is supplied by the EU’s Five Presidents’ Report of June 2015 [4], which summarises steps for the completion of full economic and political union by 2025, if not sooner, involving an eventual union of four parts: Economic Union, Financial Union, Fiscal Union and Political Union. The Report openly states that the euro ‘is more than just a currency. It is a political and economic project’ and that ‘the notion of convergence is at the heart of … Economic Union …’, entailing ‘convergence within European societies, to nurture our unique European model’. The Report states that ‘the convergence process towards more resilient economic structures … should become more binding … achieved by agreeing on a set of common high-level standards that would be defined in EU legislation, as sovereignty over policies of common concern would be shared and strong decision-making at euro area level would be established’.

A ‘common macroeconomic stabilisation function’ is planned, contemplating the identification of ‘a pool of financing sources and investment projects specific to the euro area, to be tapped into according to the business cycle’. The Report states that the stabilisation function ‘should be developed within the framework of the European Union’ but ‘should not lead to permanent transfers between countries’. It follows from this that the problems of the eurozone become the business of all member states. In consequence, ongoing EU membership will almost inevitably result in greater financial transfers to the haemorrhaging EU system, in reality, providing compensation for the economic mismanagement of others.

Serious questions are posed by just these few illustrations of the world of the EU. If private investment into operations sharing the same negative characteristics and open to a similarly complex and costly prognosis would be unthinkable as a business strategy in the world of commerce, how can it nonetheless be tolerated in public affairs, applying biblical principles of stewardship, when the deployment of national resources is at stake?

As John Calvin reminds us, revenues under the control of government ‘…are not so much their private chests as the treasuries of the entire people (for Paul so testifies: Romans 13:6) which cannot be squandered or despoiled without manifest injustice’[5].

This leads to the matter of accountability, a thread woven throughout the Bible’s narrative and theology. All governments are accountable: to God, as well as to man. ‘Now, therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear’ (Psalm 2:10-11). Jehoshaphat exhorted the appointed judges to ‘take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord” (2 Chronicles 19:6).

Without genuine accountability, reform is impossible, since – as Josiah’s example shows – reform necessitates accountability for sin (2 Kings 23: 1-25).

Charles Hodge, the great commentator on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, helpfully observed:

Magistrates or rulers are not appointed for their own honour or advantage, but for the benefit of society, and, therefore, while those in subjection are on this account to obey them, they themselves are taught, what those in power are so apt to forget, that they are the servants of the people as well as the servants of God, and that the welfare of society is the only legitimate object which they as rulers are at liberty to pursue [6].

No Christian would seriously dispute that our democratically elected government must conscientiously perform its duties – duties owed to our nation – and be called to account accordingly. However, service and accountability are substantially undermined by EU membership, which precludes our government from having unqualified power to make laws specially designed for the good of our nation. EU law, crafted to meet a broad mix of interests, applies, even if contrary to our national interests. The European Commission has largely untrammelled (and increasing) legislative and executive powers and is not an elected body, representative of, or accountable to, the peoples of Europe (still less British citizens). The European Court of Justice has intrusive jurisdiction to uphold European law over conflicting national law. Moreover, the rule of law is itself in jeopardy within the EU, as the recent programme of state bail-outs, contrary to Article 125 of The Lisbon Treaty of 2007, has shown.

In light of all this, EU membership severely undermines the ability of our government to serve the nation. Service depends upon the wise promulgation and application of laws, for which the government is accountable. Accountable government does not exist when laws are imposed from outside, by unaccountable bodies. Conscientious service of the nation is materially undermined when law making and enforcement powers reside elsewhere.

The concept of parliamentary sovereignty is often regarded as dry and otherworldly, having little relevance to the daily business of government, or our national well-being. However, parliamentary sovereignty and accountability are two sides of the same coin. When national sovereignty flows away to EU institutions, eroding legislative and executive powers at home, the accountability of national government to the electorate is reduced accordingly. In extremis, government becomes the mere servile administration of powers vested outside the UK. Parliamentary democracy is undermined. Accountability disappears and as the Five Presidents’ Report plainly demonstrates, the future trajectory of the EU has nothing to do with safeguarding our interests. It is the future development of the European ‘super state’ project alone which is promoted.

Mankind will one day see the establishment of a wise, just and omnipotent divine government, of the increase of which there will be no end (Isaiah 9:6-7). Until then, it is our duty as Christian citizens to strive for human government characterised by honesty and integrity, justice and equity, serving the common good of our nation, under the rule of law, through wise stewardship and allocation of resources and fully accountable to those it is called upon to serve. Government of this kind cannot be secured through EU membership, when that entails and will continue to require the transfer of money, power and responsibility to complex and costly EU institutions, without any corresponding accountability for the enactment of purposes which are not fashioned for our nation’s good.

[1] Civitas: EU Facts.
[2] European Commission Press Release, 21/09/07.
[3] Daniel Hannan MEP, A Doomed Marriage: Britain and Europe (2012); Why Vote Leave (2016).
[4] Subtitled 'Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union' and available at
[5] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559), Book IV, Chapter XX.13; Civil Government.
[6] Charles Hodge, A Commentary on Romans (1835), 407-408.


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