In deciding how to vote it is important that we recognise that we are answering a different sort of question from that at general elections but, as there, we also need to keep front and centre the test of what it means to love our neighbours and how our vote can serve the common good. That means not deciding on the basis of what is best for me personally (usually understood in simple financial terms) or even for the UK alone but to look at our personal and national good in the context of international society and the importance of good relationships. It also means trying to step back and take in the bigger picture both historically but also in terms of the present nature and likely future development of the EU. At least three broad areas require serious Christian reflection and evaluation in discerning how to vote.
First, as regards its form, the EU is an international legal and political entity based on treaties between national governments. This means considering a Christian attitude to the role and limits of nations and national identity and the dangers of empire as well as consideration of the principle of the free movement of peoples and how it relates to our sense of belonging and place of national borders. Second, the EU also has motives and aims which shape its ethos. Here Christians must evaluate how it has assisted in moving Europe from war to peace, whether and how it has enabled solidarity both within Europe and between Europe and the poorer parts of the world, and whether, particularly in relation to economic life, it is driven by our contemporary idols in the Western world and, through the Euro and austerity, serving or undermining human flourishing. Finally, as the EU is best viewed as a political community it needs, from a Christian perspective, to be assessed in terms of how well it serves the pursuit of justice and whether its political structures are ”“ or can be – representative of its 500 million people and whether they uphold the principle of subsidiarity which seeks to respect local and national governing structures and non-governmental forms of social life.
In the light of all these issues a number of arguments on both sides need to be rejected by Christians but, after exploring each of these areas, I believe it is possible to sketch out potential Christian arguments for each side of the debate focussing on these issues, often neglected in the wider political debate.