Should Brexit matter to Quakers?

The Quaker Council for European Affairs has circulated a set of propositions drafted by Oxford Quakers. Oxford Quakers have raised the issue as a concern (a word which has a formal meaning in a Quaker context – more here).

Not all Friends voted the same way in the Referendum last year. Thus Meeting for Sufferings on 16 July minuted: We have taken time to reflect on the outcome of the EU Referendum held on 23 June, and to reflect on what Love requires of us.

Since then, some of the campaigning falsehoods (but not the emotional attachments) have fallen away, and at this stage in the proceedings it may be timely to speak out. Although some Friends may wish to see the whole process overturned, we can at least offer a statement of the Quaker concerns that colour our feelings about the negotiating process. Seen through the lens of our testimonies, Faith and Hope may be useful touchstones alongside that of Love.

As matters of Faith:

  • Surely the arms trade should not be a major driver of our economy? Can the UK take the Brexit opportunity to move resources from military hardware (including Trident) towards our domestic pressure points (health, social care, prisons)?
  • And should not the UK contribution to the wider world become more people-based, with conciliatory diplomacy, peace-building and the promotion of social (including gender) equality as key features?
  • How can our country maintain and strengthen the beneficial aspects of our historical relationship with the EU – for example by setting an example of probity, integrity and transparency in public life, and of the primacy of truth in all fields of communication?
  • How should Northern Ireland be safeguarded from violence as the border problem is addressed?

Turning now to Hope:

  • How can Quakers best engage with the Brexit negotiations to ensure that our key concerns are understood?
  • How should the EU-driven protection for workers, consumers and the environment which are now enshrined in UK law be safeguarded from a ‘race to the bottom’ under pressure in trade deal negotiations?
  • How should resources best be guaranteed for humane, expeditious and adaptable immigration and customs services?
  • Now that the EU seems closer to the risk of break up than to over-centralisation, can we hope that the remaining EU member states will introduce reforms that limit the appeal of extremist or populist policies? Would a version of the Quaker business method, rather than the rigidity of voting, speed the process?
  • Will the UK maintain its commitment to sustainability, including the 1.5 degree ceiling on global warming; no to fracking; removal of subsidies from fossil fuels and North Sea production?
  • How can our own education system adapt better to economic as well as social and cultural needs, partly by giving more emphasis to competences than to qualifications? Can free movement of students and mature academics be preserved?
  • Can our politicians be dissuaded from abandoning the solidarity of the Council of Europe’s defence of human rights?

Last but not least, Love:

  • How should the interests and aspirations of the member nations of the United Kingdom be best respected?
  • Should the plight of industrial workers whose jobs have disappeared and of those in very low paid work be addressed by a move to a perhaps poorer but fairer society?
  • Can attitudes to non-UK citizens, those already here and those seeking entry, including refugees and asylum seekers, be on the basis that no one is of no account? What can any of us do to roll back the spread of intolerance?
  • How can the EU, with our encouragement, take measures to make life more worth living in countries handicapped by emigration, immigration or the euro?
We look forward first to the witness and service of our own Quaker community, but hope that our concerns will have responses in faith circles and the wider world.

23.3.17 version

QCEA promotes Quaker values at the European level.

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