Brexit is not first and foremost about economics – or even immigration. It is about the power of community to create or destroy relationships. It is too often assumed that ‘community’ is always a power for good – but it can also be a power for evil. ISIS is a community. But because it is an incestuous and exclusive grouping, it enables – and indeed encourages – the power of community to become tragically destructive. Brexit faces the same dilemma – the communal dilemma – and the Lords’ debate over the rights of EU citizens highlights the issue in very practical and human terms.
The real danger with the Government’s failure to accept the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK is that it is basing this, and the whole business of relationships with Europe, on a market model. It is a model based on competition not co-operation – on self-seeking not generosity – on distrust not trust.
Community as an open, inclusive and creative power, utterly essential if we wish to build one world, can never be built on distrust. It cannot be based on the principle that unless you will play ball, I will not play ball. Above all, it cannot be founded on people used as pawns in a game of chess. The humanity and well-being of human beings – not least those who have been made vulnerable through no fault of their own – is a God-given bottom line.
If the UK is to be a community in an open and not closed and destructive sense, EU citizens already part of our society must be given a right to stay here whatever any other country eventually decides to do about our citizens resident there. Trust not distrust alone can prevent the power of community from turning inwards and eventually destroying all parties, including nations, concerned.