We live in deeply unsettling times. Look around the world. The political backlash unleashed by Britain’s “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union (EU) last summer has continued with the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in November. Other upcoming elections in Europe may shake the continent even more.
The results have sent shock waves through the ruling elites. What’s going on? Many pundits define this political revolution as brazen acts of anti-immigration nationalism. Is that really the case? What was behind the British exit vote and what does it portend for the future of Europe and the rest of the world?
More importantly, why should it matter to you?
A vote against immigrants, globalism and the political elites
Immigration into Britain from other EU countries as well as the war-torn Middle East and Africa the past few years no doubt served as a spark for those wanting Britain to leave the EU. But those who voted to leave the EU also voted against the nameless, faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels who have been imposing seemingly unreasonable policies and strangling their sense of national sovereignty.
With every terrorist attack, with every job loss, with every report of a social welfare system straining to provide for the seemingly endless stream of immigrants as well as citizens, many British “have nots” had had enough.
As CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson wrote: “For many in the UK … they see a rich upper class that has grown ridiculously rich, intertwined with a political elite in their pocket … The argument of political leaders that immigration benefits the economy is lost on the ‘Leave’ supporters because they don’t feel they see the benefits” (“A Look at Brexit: Why Are the Brits Thumbing Their Noses at Europe?” CNN.com, June 24, 2016).
While the new economic elites in London and other gentrified urban areas of Britain have become wealthy, as in America’s major urban areas and high-tech rich coastal cities, the middle and working classes have seen their opportunities and those of their children shrinking at an ever-increasing rate. The same is true throughout the Western world.
Jim Tankersley, economic policy writer for The Washington Post, further observed: “The forces driving those populist uprisings, both against E.U. bureaucrats in Brussels and elected officials in Washington, are complex and intertwined … Across the West … the rise of populism corresponds to a decline in the income share held by the broad middle classes of those countries … With the Brexit vote, the populist movement can already claim a victory: It has won a clear reversal from the economic-integration trend of the past decades” (“Britain Just Killed Globalization as We Know It,”WashingtonPost.com, June 25, 2016).
But were anti-immigration sentiments and economic fears the only reasons for Brexit? Concludes Nic Robertson’s CNN analysis: “The message from the shires of England is that they no longer trust their leadership. A divide has opened; centers of cosmopolitan wealth are at odds with their council estate and country-living cousins. It is not about wealth, it is about history—about who the British think they are.”
The reluctant partner
Though Britain was on the winning side in World War II, the decades following saw the once-proud nation struggling. The British Empire was gone, and the nation went through a time of economic turmoil. Many looked to the continent with envy as the European Coal and Steel Community began to prosper. But entry into what became the European Economic Community (EEC) would not be easy. Twice the British were denied membership (1963 and 1967) because then–French President Charles de Gaulle doubted Britain’s political will to fully integrate. He would prove to be right.
Nevertheless, on January 1, 1973, the British Union Jack was raised in Brussels—signaling the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. In 1975, 67 percent of British voters endorsed the UK’s membership in what they saw as a free trade zone called the EEC.
Fast forward 43 years to June 23, 2016, and in a dramatic turn of events, 52 percent of British voters elected to leave the European Union in stunning victory for those backing Brexit. Why did this remarkable development take place?
Britain’s distinct history at play
We’ve already seen the role of immigration and Brussel’s bureaucracy. One of the greatest stumbling blocks to British integration into the European Union, however, was Britain’s distinct history. Britain has never quite thought of itself as European (see “The Ancient Brits Leave Modern Europe ”).
Europe was always “the Continent.” Britain’s legal traditions are its own, rooted in the 13th century and earlier, and are distinct from the Continent’s Roman law and Napoleonic code. Britain had been a premier world power with global trade connections of its own through its Commonwealth.
British foreign policy with respect to Europe had always been a matter of shifting alliances and sheer military force to contain the power and influence of its European Continental rivals. From France of the Middle Ages, the Dutch mercantilists, Imperial Spain, Bourbon and Napoleonic France, Czarist Russia or Germany, Britain had successfully held at bay its rivals time and again.
Nonetheless, the lure of the prosperity that the EEC (later the EU) was experiencing throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, compared to the economic turmoil of a Britain in economic decline, proved too much to resist. But for many the rosy picture of untold prosperity for all failed to materialize.
Andrew Gilligan, London editor for The Sunday Telegraph, observed: “At the beginning, Britain—though one of the less prosperous members—was the second-biggest net contributor to the EEC, behind only the far richer Germans, pouring large sums into subsidising French farmers, butter mountains and wine lakes [or huge stockpiles] through the Common Agricultural Policy. Not until 1984, 11 years after joining, did Margaret Thatcher secure a permanent two-thirds rebate. ‘They say it’s their money, and I say it’s mine,’ she remarked at the Brussels summit in March of that year.
“Yet this significant victory involved loss as well as gain for Britain: Thatcher’s grating personal negotiating style permanently damaged relationships between her and the other European leaders. She thought they were hypocritical, attacking her as ‘not a good European’ for opposing a system from which they benefited. They thought she didn’t understand what Europe meant to them: their countries, devastated by war, had been given lasting peace and prosperity” (“The EU: So Where Did It All Go Wrong?” Telegraph.co.uk, December 30, 2012).
But while Thatcher’s Britain did not seem to understand what Europe meant to those on the Continent, the same could be said of those on the Continent not understanding what Britain meant to the British people.
Another problem was that the ramifications of EU membership had been misrepresented in Britain. British citizens had been promised no “erosion of essential national sovereignty.” But, as Andrew Gilligan states in his Telegraph article, “This, as many have conceded, was quite untrue: European law did and does override British law, and more and more of it was coming down the tracks from Brussels.”
A reluctant partner to totalitarianism
By the late 1980s and early 90s it became obvious to the EU that Britain would always be a reluctant partner at best when the British opted out of the single currency to retain the Pound Sterling instead. Meanwhile, a steady erosion of British sovereignty to the powerful EU bureaucracy that was largely unelected and largely unaccountable to the member states helped create fertile ground for those advocating an exit strategy for Britain. That strategy took the first decisive step on June 23, 2016, when British voters elected to leave the EU.
David Pryse-Jones, a conservative British writer and commentator, gives some interesting insight on additional motives for Brexit: “The EU was a good idea in 1945, but it has long outlived its initial purpose of reconciling Germany and France. What stands out is that heads of state and politicians in Europe have been surreptitiously building a much wider political entity … The EU has developed into something never seen before in the world, an oligarchy with soft totalitarian symptoms.
“Conflicting national interests and global economic factors lead inexorably to the hardening of these totalitarian symptoms … There is only one way out of this predicament, and that is to amalgamate all the nation-states of the EU into a genuine federation, with political and fiscal unity that is even more unpopular and alarming.” In other words, the continent was developing into a United States of Europe.
Pryse-Jones concludes, “The British perceive that this empire must end in full-blown totalitarianism or catastrophic failure, and their vote shows that they want no part of either” (“Why Britain Was Right to Leave,” NationalReview.com, June 24, 2016, emphasis added throughout).
What lies ahead for Britain and the EU?
So where do Britain and the EU go from here? As British Prime Minister Theresa May outlines her plans for Brexit and a new relationship with the EU, we’ll see much discussion of how long this exit will take and what future trading relations between the two will look like.
All is not gloomy for Britain as the nation begins to chart a new, independent course. Luke Coffey, a research fellow specializing in transatlantic and Eurasian security at a Washington, D.C.–based think tank, gives this insight: “For many in the UK, the decision to leave the EU was a no-brainer. The UK is the world’s fifth-largest economy. It is a member of the 53-nation Commonwealth. It has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and has a ‘special relationship’ with the US.
“It has one of the most capable militaries in the world and possesses nuclear weapons. The UK trades more outside the EU than it does with the EU (and will continue to trade with Europe after it leaves the EU). Even though fewer than 6 percent of UK businesses trade with the EU, all have to implement the EU’s red tape and regulation” (“Brexit: A Wake Up Call for the EU, but Will It Listen?” Yahoo News, June 24, 2016).
As Britain plans to leave the EU, what about those nations that remain? Britain leaving means the EU loses a moderating force that focused on minimizing further power transfers to Brussels. The EU will also have gaps in its defense capabilities. As a result, France and Germany have lost no time in putting forward plans for further military and even political integration.
A document titled “EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy” outlines a new military thinking within the EU. The white paper states: “We, as Europeans, need to take on a greater responsibility for our own security … We need to be ready and able to repel, respond and to protect ourselves against aggression, provocations and destabilization.”
Where can this new military thinking lead? Britain’s position within the EU was that no EU army was needed. However, with Britain’s impending exit, European military and defense leaders are actively exploring such steps as a common European military headquarters and joint military forces.
And going further, a new EU without Britain leaves wide open the door for the push to take the next step to political union. Daily Express reporter Nick Gutteridge adds the following:
“The foreign ministers of France and Germany are due to reveal a blueprint to effectively do away with individual member states in what is being described as an ‘ultimatum.’ Under the radical proposals EU countries will lose the right to have their own army, criminal law, taxation system or central bank, with all those powers being transferred to Brussels …
“In the preamble to the text the two ministers write: ‘Our countries share a common destiny and a common set of values that give rise to an even closer union between our citizens. We will therefore strive for a political union in Europe and invite the next Europeans to participate in this venture’” (“European SUPERSTATE to Be Unveiled: EU Nations ‘to Be Morphed Into One’ Post-Brexit,” Express.co.uk, June 29, 2016).
Coming: A new world order
It is not yet clear if other EU members may follow Britain and vote to opt out should key players seize the chance to create a United States of Europe. But we have been writing about a new European-centered superpower for decades.
The Bible indicates that an end-time, powerful superstate will rise up to astound an unsuspecting world. The superstate, symbolically called “the Beast,” will be an imposing union of 10 leaders of nations or groups of nations that will coalesce as one final revival of the ancient Roman Empire (Daniel 2:37-45 Daniel 2:37-45 37 You, O king, are a king of kings: for the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
38 And wherever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven has he given into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all. You are this head of gold.
39 And after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: for as much as iron breaks in pieces and subdues all things: and as iron that breaks all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
41 And whereas you saw the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, for as much as you saw the iron mixed with miry clay.
42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
43 And whereas you saw iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not join one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.
44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
45 For as much as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
American King James Version×; Daniel 7:15-27 Daniel 7:15-27 15 I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the middle of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16 I came near to one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 17 These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. 19 Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; 20 And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spoke very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. 21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22 Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. 23 Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. 25 And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. 26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it to the end. 27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
American King James Version×; Revelation 13:1-8 Revelation 13:1-8 1 And I stood on the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads the name of blasphemy. 2 And the beast which I saw was like to a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. 3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. 4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power to the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like to the beast? who is able to make war with him? 5 And there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given to him to continue forty and two months. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. 7 And it was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. 8 And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
American King James Version×; Revelation 17:8-18 Revelation 17:8-18 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. 9 And here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sits. 10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a short space. 11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goes into perdition. 12 And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. 13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast. 14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. 15 And he said to me, The waters which you saw, where the whore sits, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. 16 And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. 18 And the woman which you saw is that great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.
American King James Version×).
These leaders will relinquish their own national sovereignty to become part of this end-time superpower: “These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast” (Revelation 17:13 Revelation 17:13These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast.
American King James Version×). They will promise peace, prosperity and security through a new world order, but at the price of political, economic and religious freedom.
This new world order will affect the whole world by setting the stage for the catastrophic time when humanity will face extinction without God’s direct intervention (Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×).
As we begin to see the fulfillment of end-time prophecies, what will we do? What will you do? These prophetic events should motivate each of us to examine our spiritual condition in the light of God’s Word. An understanding of prophecy ought to lead us to repentance and to truly seek and serve God.
Britain’s vote to exit allows the EU to begin a new chapter for Europe. It is well worth keeping an eye on!