The Vicar writes...
Last month's EU Referendum result sent shock waves across the world. The pound plummeted at news of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. Stock markets went into free fall, leaving David Cameron no option but to 'fall on his sword' and resign as the British Prime Minister.
When Mr Cameron decided to call the referendum, after the last election, the remain camp was well ahead in the opinion polls. He had calculated that the people of the United Kingdom would vote to stay in the EU - which he hoped would then silence the eurosceptics in his own party for a generation. In the end it all went terribly wrong for him!
There is much for the British people to reflect on as we come to terms with what has been the most momentous political decision in our recent history. Some will be devastated by the result while others are delighted. Many will fear that we are entering dangerous and unchartered territory when others see a glorious new dawn for Britain.
Whatever we feel about the result we would all agree that our nation is now much more divided than it was prior to the referendum. Deep seated differences of opinion threaten to tear the two major political parties apart. There are renewed calls for Scotland's independence which could, in turn, break up the United Kingdom. People on both sides of the in/out vote have begun to ask, 'What have we done!'
The politicians who led the referendum campaigns have to accept much of the blame for the division we now face as a country. Most commentators agree that it was one of the worse campaigns in modern British history. Over several months voters were bombarded by dodgy statistics, claims and counter claims which played on the fears of the British public over immigration, living standards, the NHS and sovereignty. The end result is that we are a nation divided against itself.
It has also been suggested that the vote out result was as much a slap in the face for the political and economic elite in London as it was a rejection of the European experiment. There is the perception, rightly or wrongly, that London sucks the lifeblood out of the rest of the country. Many voters in the old industrial heartlands feel that those in the corridors of power at Westminster are remote and indifferent to their lot.
One of the first priorities for our new Prime Minister will be to negotiate our departure from the European Union in a way that preserves our close relationship with our friends on the continent and protects our equally close economic links. They will need to broker agreements on trade and the movement of people within the EU and UK. Whoever our new Prime Minister will be he or she will need our support as never before.
But perhaps an even greater priority will be for our political leaders to work for the healing of the present divisions within our family of nations. We have to address the concerns of the millions who struggle to earn a decent living for their families in the post industrial communities of the north of England and in the Welsh valleys. We have to think seriously about what the historic union means for the four home nations, two of which voted to stay in the European Union. Our nation needs reconciling as never before.
As we look to a post Brexit Britain the Church has a unique opportunity to reach out to the people of our lands with the ever relevant message of the Gospel. For at the heart of what we proclaim is the good news of the reconciliation our crucified and risen Lord offers to the world. The faith we celebrate calls us away from narrow prejudice and self interest. It challenges us always to love and to work for the good of others.
A recent statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York says what many of us would want to say at this time, "We must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world."