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File:British plan Somme 1 July 1916.pngFriday, July 1, 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

This historic battle lasted 141 days. A daily service of remembrance will be held at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in northern France at noon through to November 18. British readers who are interested in attending may register via the Royal British Legion site. Thiepval is the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world.

Access to Thiepval will be restricted until July 9 for special ceremonies. On July 1, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Charles and Prince Harry will attend a commemorative service. The service will tell the story of the battle and will include special readings, hymns and music.

Nearby towns will also hold remembrance ceremonies as will cities and towns in the United Kingdom and Canada. Germans will commemorate the centenary at their cemetery in Fricourt.

The Battle of the Somme began at 7:30 a.m. July 1, 1916 is still regarded as the worst day in British military history. On that day alone, 57,470 men were killed or injured; 19,240 died. By the time the battle ended on November 18, more than one million men — British, French and German — had been wounded or killed.

30a Sammlung Eybl Großbritannien. Alfred Leete (1882–1933) Britons (Kitchener) wants you (Briten Kitchener braucht Euch). 1914 (Nachdruck), 74 x 50 cm. (Slg.Nr. 552).jpgAmong the British soldiers were the Pals battalions, comprised of friends, relatives and workmates who were allowed to fight together. They had enlisted on the appeal of the recruitment posters featuring Lord Kitchener.

Private Sidney Lewis was one of those young men. In fact, he was only a boy — aged 12 — when he signed up in 1915. He was tall and stocky for his age. He was sent to the Somme and fought for six weeks. His mother discovered where he had gone, sent his birth certificate to the War Office and demanded his return. Sidney Lewis was sent home in August 1916, a year after he had enlisted.

The oldest soldier was Lt Henry Webber who died on the battlefield on July 27, aged 67!

Captain Wilfred Percy Nevill, known as Billie, decided that a football would calm his troops’ nerves. When the artillery bombardment lifted on July 1, he and another officer kicked the balls into ‘no man’s land’ and followed them. A Royal British Legion leaflet from May 2016 explains:

As the Advance approached the German barbed wire, the troops hesitated and Nevill dashed forward to kick the ball on. He was killed instantly.

No man’s land was the area between a system of trenches and dugouts protected by barbed wire on the British and German sides of the Western Front.

Conditions were extremely harsh. Each infantryman carried an average of 30 kg of equipment during the first phase of the battle. The weather was cold, the trenches wet. Troops had to live among disease-carrying rats. An average of 893 men died every day from July 1 to November 18.

Incidentally, the first British tank — the Mark I — made its debut on September 15 at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

Filming also took place during the Battle of the Somme. A feature-length documentary of soldiers in action — The Battle of the Somme — was quickly put together and premiered in cinemas on August 21, 1916. Six weeks later, 20 million Britons had seen it.

This is footage taken on July 1:

Another outcome of the battle, possibly because of the documentary, was a narrative against the officer class. A Royal British Legion paper on the battle says that the film by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell showed no officers, only soldiers (p. 11 of the PDF). Yet, officers were close to their men — more so than today — and often led the charge.

Over the course of the battle, the British took a strip of territory from the Germans that was 20 miles long and five miles deep.

The onset of winter with its wet, unforgiving weather finally put an end to combat. Troops on both sides had been poorly prepared and inadequately equipped.

The horrifying death toll brought the reality of war home for Britain.

The emblematic battle for the French is Verdun. For Australians and New Zealanders it is Gallipoli.

For the British it is the Battle of the Somme.

We will remember.

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The Brexit result will further energise Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

It is easy to portray both Leavers and Trump supporters in the usual binary way: unenlightened, uneducated racists and bigots. However, there is more to the story.

Brexit

In the case of Leave, perspectives were much more nuanced, regardless of what politicians, the media and Remainers say.

As a Leaver on PoliticalBetting.com put it on June 25:

The Leave coalition is quite a diverse one, lefty leavers were for Leave as a vote against globalization, centrist leavers supported Leave as a vote for democracy, right leavers supported Leave as a vote against mass immigration.

As Leave politicians said in the televised debates, their supporters favoured common sense over expert opinion.

The EU Referendum was won by people who rejected the political class, the media, corporatism (including big banks), experts and the elite.

On June 20, Tom Harris wrote an excellent column for The Telegraph, one which took issue with the haughtiness of the Remain camp. An excerpt follows:

Not many people would say it outright, but it’s implicit in some of the discussion around this that merely having a referendum is in itself a dangerous thing, a risk we should avoid.

This is obviously stupid on a surface level. We are a democracy, and democracy entails uncertainty. If we’re going to worry about “jitters” whenever we go to a vote, we might as well give up on the idea of voting at all. Focus groups including Welsh plumbers and single parents in Teesside could be disbanded in favour of specialised all-City panels (better dressed, better canapes). We’re not going to do that, so we’ll all have to find it in ourselves to accept the occasional market wobble.

But on a deeper level the saga of the pound also reveals the suffocating, restrictive groupthink which has dominated the last few months. Remain supporters talk less and less of the “positive” reasons for voting Remain, and more and more about how, since everyone else agrees with them, so should you. And another aspect of the same groupthink is the increasingly frequently stated view that, in fact, referendums in general are a bad thing, and that this should be the last one ever.

The little people (those who live outside SW1) just aren’t clever enough to decide on such a complicated issue as membership of the EU. All those facts and figures are just too difficult to analyse for themselves. That’s why we have a parliamentary democracy, so that our MPs can get on with running our lives while we focus on what’s important to us. Like whippets. Or eating fry-ups.

Harris rightly notes that, were it left up to Parliament, nothing would have been done about our place in the EU. David Cameron worked hard at renegotiating various aspects but, in reality, left Brussels with very few concessions.

We cannot be sure that the EU even ratified them.

The innate superiority of Remain was ever-present, as evidenced by this tweet from actor Robert Webb, a Cambridge graduate, who took issue with Boris Johnson’s Independence Day speech in the final debate on the BBC:

Johnson offers ‘hope’ with a clenched fist as a prelude to invoking ‘Independence Day’ to wild applause from thick people.

Television and talk radio journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer addressed similar sentiments in The Telegraph on June 22:

… perhaps you are afraid of being called a xenophobe or a racist or a Little Englander if you want to vote to control our borders? Well, rest assured that the many millions of people who are voting Leave on 23 June are not nasty, bitter old racists who want to go back to the 1950s. This isn’t about closing our borders and turning our backs on the world. On the contrary, this is about escaping the chains of the past and a positive vision for our future in the 21st century global economy. There is absolutely nothing racist or xenophobic about being concerned about the pressures on housing, schools, the NHS, our roads, public transport and community cohesion that years of mass uncontrolled immigration has brought.  

In closing on the ‘little people’, betting patterns were interesting, with Remain on top until shortly after 2 a.m. on June 24. A PoliticalBetting.com reader contributed this comment on June 21 explaining why (emphases mine):

Ladbrokes political betting man on Sky News.

Says those betting on REMAIN bet an average of £450 whilst those betting on LEAVE bet on average less than £100.

So rich people placing bets on REMAIN and poorer people placing bets on LEAVE – no doubt based on the opinions of the people they mix with.

Hence the difference between the betting odds which strongly favour REMAIN and the pollsters’ 50/50.

On June 25, The Telegraph published an article discussing Vote Leave’s man behind the scenes, strategist Dominic Cummings, said to have won the referendum. He carefully ran various talking points by focus groups. In the end:

With a group of only 60 staff inside Westminster Tower and minimal resources, Mr Cummings virtually single-handedly plotted an “asymmetric” campaign against almost the entire political and financial establishment

By early May, he had settled on the three key points that would form the basis for the final weeks of the campaign: a promise to take back control of £350million a week of taxpayers’ spending from Brussels; a promise to take back control over immigration; and warnings that countries such as Turkey and Serbia were in line to join the European Union in the years ahead.

The Remain team brought Obama over to tell us that if we didn’t vote to stay in the EU, we’d be at the ‘back of the queue’ with regard to the United States. More Project Fear. Ho hum.

Lord Ashcroft Polls has this helpful graphic which explains the reasons both sides voted the way they did:

https://i1.wp.com/lordashcroftpolls.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Leave-vs-Remain-podium-rankings-768x989.jpg

Note the risk averse reasons from the Remain side versus the ‘take back control’ principles from Leave.

The disagreement about national sovereignty was acute. Remain did not even mention it, which recalls this quote from 1939 saying that national sovereignty is the root of all evil:

This Leaver’s letter to the editor (Telegraph?) further illustrates the Remain mindset:

I’ve just mugged a ‘Remain’ supporter — I took £350 out of his wallet, but he didn’t seem to mind.

I felt a bit sorry for him, so I gave him half of it back, but only on the condition that he spent it on things I say he can and that everything he buys should have a picture next to it of me saying I paid for it. He agreed!

We are meeting again tomorrow to do the same thing. He said that it was a fantastic idea and that he wouldn’t be able to survive without me.

Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed on June 23. The Telegraph published this letter on June 25:

SIR – An email that I received early on Friday from a dear Swedish friend said it all: “What you have done will mean so much for so many, and gives us all hope that democracy will survive and is stronger than all those who wish to control us. Thank you.”

Trump

What is Donald Trump gleaning from Brexit?

Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton and Obama sided with Remain. Trump, by contrast, saw it this way. In May, when asked of the possibility of leaving the EU, he said:

I would say that they’re better off without it, personally, but I’m not making that as a recommendation. Just my feeling.

On June 24, he issued a statement on Brexit:

Statement Regarding British Referendum on E.U. Membership

The people of the United Kingdom have exercised the sacred right of all free peoples. They have declared their independence from the European Union, and have voted to reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy. A Trump Administration pledges to strengthen our ties with a free and independent Britain, deepening our bonds in commerce, culture and mutual defense. The whole world is more peaceful and stable when our two countries – and our two peoples – are united together, as they will be under a Trump Administration.

Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first. They will have the chance to reject today’s rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by and for the people. I hope America is watching, it will soon be time to believe in America again.

He soon followed it up with a tweet:

Many people are equating BREXIT, and what is going on in Great Britain, with what is happening in the U.S. People want their country back!

When he was in Scotland last week to reopen his newly refurbished golf resort at Turnberry, he gave an interview to The Times in which he predicted the breakup of the EU:

“The people have spoken. I think the EU is going to break up. I think the EU might break up before anybody thinks in terms of Scotland.” Trump said in an interview with The Times.

“I really think that without the immigration issue [the EU] wouldn’t have had a chance of breaking up … the people are fed up, whether it’s here or in other countries. You watch: other countries will follow.” Trump added.

I’m less sure that immigration was the primary overall reason. It was the continual loss of sovereignty that many of us found frustrating. Regardless of what pro-EU people say, many European nations’ laws come from EU directives that must be enacted and obeyed, whether those concern weights and measures and fruit shapes or — coming soon — defence policy and tax ID numbers.

Just before Trump went to Scotland, he gave a well-received speech on June 22, in which he explained why he was running for president, his reasons for opposing Clinton — and how he perceives the current state of play in America.

This sounds very similar to Leave’s perspective:

Everywhere I look, I see the possibilities of what our country could be. But we can’t solve any of these problems by relying on the politicians who created them.

We will never be able to fix a rigged system by counting on the same people who rigged it in the first place.

The insiders wrote the rules of the game to keep themselves in power and in the money.

That’s why we’re asking Bernie Sanders’ voters to join our movement: so together we can fix the system for ALL Americans. Importantly, this includes fixing all of our many disastrous trade deals.

Because it’s not just the political system that’s rigged. It’s the whole economy.

It’s rigged by big donors who want to keep down wages.

It’s rigged by big businesses who want to leave our country, fire our workers, and sell their products back into the U.S. with absolutely no consequences for them.

It’s rigged by bureaucrats who are trapping kids in failing schools.

It’s rigged against you, the American people.

That is the Leviathan that Leavers opposed on Thursday, June 23.

Americans will have that same opportunity on Tuesday, November 8.

Brexit proved that every vote counts.

The same holds true for American voters.

Money seekingalpha-Living4DividendsThe newspapers from April 23 and 24 presented the worst case scenarios for British business in case of Brexit.

One of the reasons the government is delaying triggering Article 50, which formally begins Leave proceedings with Brussels, is to give businesses time to plan for the future. There are, of course, other reasons for the delay, mainly David Cameron’s resignation. He clearly said that his successor, to be decided by October, will be the one to invoke the article.

The business section of Le Monde on June 23 had two good articles about Brexit. One of their correspondents, Eric Albert, interviewed a few British business experts (‘Le casse-tête des accords commerciaux post-Brexit’, Économie et Entreprise, p. 4). Highlights follow, translation and emphases mine.

How much of British trade is with the EU?

Currently, the European Union (EU) represents 45% of British exports and clarifying the commercial trading framework will be a matter of urgency.

Article 50 provides for a two-year period of exit negotiation. After two years, it can be renewed and extended.

‘The most rapid EU free trade agreement to date, with South Korea, took four years to be negotiated,’ recalls Jessica Gladstone from the legal firm Clifford Chance. ‘Negotiations between the EU and the United Kingdom could be accelerated, but both parties would have to agree to that.’

At the moment, there are no trade frameworks that would ideally suit the UK’s position.

Norway is not part of the EU, but it is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and benefits from full access to the single market. But, in return, it is obliged to follow the rules and regulations from Brussels; it contributes annually to the EU budget and it abides by free movement of persons. For the United Kingdom, this would change nothing.

Relations between Switzerland and the EU are founded on nearly 120 bilateral agreements. But these do not include financial services, extremely important to the United Kingdom.

Turkey currently has access to the single market without accepting free movement. But that agreement pertains only to goods, not services. Yet, 80% of the British economy relies on services, particularly financial services. Furthermore, Turkey is obliged to adopt European rules and regulations.

Other countries — Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Ukraine — have distinctive agreements which include various aspects of political collaboration. However, those agreements are designed to help those countries become members of the EU. Britain would not benefit from that type of framework.

Another possibility is for Britain to return as a member of the World Trade Organisation. However, that would mean that customs and tariffs applied between the UK and EU. In short, the UK would be no different to India or China in that respect.

So, this leaves the UK in a position of having to renegotiate all 53 free trade agreements which exist between the EU and the rest of the world in order to maintain the commercial status quo in a Brexit Britain. Brussels would have to make significant concessions to Britain, which seems unlikely, but who knows? We would need to have a trading framework specifically tailored to our needs.

Another article on the same page in Le Monde was a Q&A with Andrew Balls, fund manager at Pimco (‘”La faiblesse des salaires nourrit le rejet d’Europe“‘). Balls explained — as the title says — that the British rejected Europe because of increasingly weak salaries.

Reporter Marie Charrel asked Balls whether Brexit would have as ‘violent’ an effect on the UK as the economic crash of 2008. Balls said that, outside of initial market and currency dips in the immediate aftermath, he did not foresee chronic problems in the long term. This is because everyone was aware we were undertaking an EU referendum, whereas no one foresaw Lehman Brothers failing in 2008.

Charrel then asked him what the overall financial impact of Brexit would be. Balls replied:

The heaviest consequences would be concentrated on the British economy. The doubts about an exit process, which could last for months, would penalise investment. A recession is not out of the question, but, overall, [making] any estimates would be tricky.

For the European Union, economic consequences would be more limited. We are much more worried about political risks that a Brexit would only amplify: the rise of Eurosceptic populists, Spanish legislative elections on June 26, the Italian referendum on constitutional reform this autumn … The list is a long one.

She then asked Balls the reasons for these political risks. He said:

Populist movements in Italy or in France, just as the rejection of the EU in the United Kingdom and even the popularity of the Republican Donald Trump in the United States have one thing in common: they are fed by weak growth and salaries which have been going on for years. Moreover, a number of citizens feel that aid given to the banking sector has not actually benefited the economy, and that income inequality has been further reinforced during this crisis [of 2008].

One wonders if our Treasury started developing Brexit plans during the campaign, despite our Chancellor George Osborne’s Project Fear. It could be he was so confident of Remain winning that no one thought of developing — or was allowed to formulate — a Plan B(rexit).

What a weird weekend.

Friday found many British digesting the news that David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister shortly after Leave won.

The Camerons’ story

Today’s Daily Mail has a report saying that he and his wife Samantha took out a mortgage on their Notting Hill home on June 15, when Leave polling was at its peak. (Labour MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered the following day.)

The article says that the mortgage could help them finance the purchase of a new home. It also said that the EU Referendum campaign drove a stressed Mrs Cameron to take up smoking and the occasional drink. I can empathise. It has been a difficult three months.

Talk amongst Conservatives and Leave supporters that day focussed on Cameron’s resignation. To me, it looked like a toys-out-of-the-pram moment. Others I spoke with saw it differently. Some said Cameron was ‘tired’ of being PM. Others said that he would have to stand down for losing the referendum.

All of us were right. On June 24, The Sun reported:

he told tearful members of his inner circle: “Why should I do all the hard s**t for someone else, just to hand it over to them on a plate?”

The moving scenes played out as the PM came into the office of his key staff, next door to his No10 study, just before 9am yesterday …

The Sun can also reveal Mr Cameron had decided to resign if he lost the referendum while voting was still taking place after a long summit session with close aides on Thursday.

Despite objections from at least one of the advisers, he came to the conclusion there was “no way back after being rejected by the British people”.

The Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson pointed out the Prime Minister’s post-referendum rage but, like many of us, thought he should have manned up to the job, like Churchill did during the Second World War (emphases mine):

I suspect that Cameron, himself, suffered a bit of referendum rage. Perhaps he genuinely believed some of the wilder claims he was making about Brexit bringing on Armageddon. Today’s Sun reveals that he quit after asking aides: ‘Why should I have to do the hard s[—] for someone else, just to hand it over to them on a plate?’ The answer is that he’s the Prime Minister; that’s what it’s about. You do the hard s[—] because a lot of people are counting on you to do so. As Cameron himself knows: he has done plenty of hard s[—] over the years, and did so with almost superhuman cheeriness. I can understand how he’d blurt out something like that, and how it may have informed his decision to resign that morning. But I think it was the wrong decision.

And I don’t think it was inevitable that he had to go immediately. Of course, he would have to go eventually but the Brexit talks need not start for some time.

An analysis of Cameron’s political career in The Telegraph said that he had been highly skilful and successful, but the strain was beginning to show. Samantha was also affected and worried for their children. In the end, David Cameron was tired:

“Essentially Dave was knackered,” says an old friend of Cameron. “He always felt that he had an obligation to see out the referendum, and that is what he did, but the job is totally shattering and he had just had enough.” Another friend says: “I don’t think he wanted to hold on. He had had enough, and it’s a bit of a relief really. During the campaign he looked bloated and ratty, and with a young family that pressure must be incredibly difficult.”  

The Guardian also featured a considered analysis of Cameron’s career, calling his resignation a ‘European tragedy’.

The Mail published a detailed account of events as the Camerons experienced them on June 23:

reports throughout the day of a high voter turnout encouraged Cameron to believe that this signalled that younger, pro-Remain supporters were voting and thus they would come to his rescue against the usual hard core of older voters who were known to be more pro-Brexit.

At around 3pm, Cameron’s team took a phone call which made them convinced that victory was in the bag.

Lord Cooper, a co-founder of the Populus polling company and the architect of the PM’s policy on gay marriage, called to say he thought the margin of victory for Remain would be 60/40. A few hours later, Populus published its final poll of the campaign – giving Remain a commanding ten-point lead.

… The fact that Cameron believed Lord Cooper’s poll is a mystery. For Cooper has a terrible track record of predictions

Cooper’s own polling suggested that Cameron would not be re-elected to No 10. Of course, it turned out to be the best Tory result for more than 20 years.

How ironic, therefore, that it was word of a private poll by bankers Merrill Lynch (which predicted a Leave win by the slenderest margin of 0.5 per cent) that led to the first cracks of doubt. Spirits were lifted around 10.15pm when the hated Nigel Farage appeared to concede defeat.

Cameron, who habitually likes to go to bed by 10.30pm, after the 10pm news, and gets up at 5.45am to work on his red boxes, decided to stay up to watch some of the first results on TV.

It was when Newcastle voted by a slim majority to Remain that there was a dawning realisation in the Downing Street bunker that he might be in trouble.

At 12.20am, it was the much more decisive trouncing of Remain in another Labour stronghold, Sunderland, that sent tremors through No 10.

At that point, the report said that Cameron spoke with Chancellor George Osborne and a close friend, Lord Feldman. Meanwhile:

Samantha Cameron veered between deep distress and bouts of ice cold fury. ‘She felt terribly let down by friends who had convinced her this would not happen,’ I’m told.

The article states that Cameron was so confident of a Remain result that he had no Leave speech. With the help of two close advisers, he stayed up the rest of the night to write one whilst keeping abreast of the returns.

Senior ministers go AWOL

The weekend was also weird in that many of us felt our political leaders went AWOL. On Sunday, June 26, The Spectator‘s Douglas Murray wrote:

It is now almost three days since David Cameron announced his resignation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been in hiding ever since. And the Parliamentary Labour party is revolting against its own leader and members …

Since Mark Carney’s intervention early on Friday there has been no appearance by any public figure to assure the country on what happens next. I trust that this will start to happen tomorrow. But everyone involved in the running of this country – whatever side they took during the recent referendum – needs to know that there is significant unease in the country over the lack of leadership at a time when many questions need very swift attention

Today’s headlines explain where nearly everyone was. Although we don’t know about Cameron, Leave mastermind Boris Johnson, former two-term Mayor of London, secured Michael Gove’s support for becoming the next Prime Minister. Johnson spent the weekend wooing MPs to his cause at his country home. Chancellor George Osborne was busy writing a speech to reassure the markets and British businesses.

The biggest surprise was the spate of resignations and dismissals in the Labour Party shadow cabinet. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to take the blame for a Leave win, despite his half-hearted campaign. Corbyn dismissed Hilary Benn, Tony Benn’s son, as Shadow Foreign Secretary. Hilary Benn diverged from his late father in supporting Remain and criticised Corbyn in the early hours of Sunday morning. That was the start of more discord which continued throughout the day.

Early this morning — Monday — Osborne emerged from the shadows to give his speech. He no longer spoke of his Brexit budget — the ‘punishment’ one — but maintained calm. The Spectator has this analysis:

He didn’t wholly change his tune on those warnings, saying: ‘I don’t resile from any of the concerns I expressed during the campaign’. But then again, crucially, he didn’t repeat any of those warnings either. His recession prediction was substituted for the euphemism that there would be an ‘adjustment’ in the economy …

The Chancellor said there ‘will have to be action’ to deal with Brexit. But he did his best to kick the budget football away for the time being by emphasising the role of the new Prime Minister in what comes next. He also seemed to indicate that we won’t see Article 50 being triggered until the autumn, despite what some European leaders have said about the need for Britain to do so immediately

For now, Osborne has no intention of leaving his post, but, as The Spectator pointed out, he is so closely identified with Remain’s Project Fear that it is hard to imagine how he can stay on in the long term. We can but see.

Immigration reduction in doubt

Meanwhile, the backlash from young Remainers, including those who didn’t bother to vote, has caused senior Conservative Leavers to backtrack on campaign verbiage about reducing immigration. Some want amnesty for illegals who were here for 15 years or more when the referendum took place. Others want to retain an open door policy. No one, it seems, wants to return to the more structured immigration process we had in the 1990s.

The truth is, there is no plan. The Spectator‘s Melanie McDonagh says that will have to change:

the constituency which voted for out will be justifiably disgruntled if it turns out that immigration numbers don’t fall as a result of leaving. Replacing EU migrants with even more non-EU ones won’t do it. The disaffected want a reduction in numbers, unless you’re talking Australians and Canadians. They didn’t actually vote for an Australian style points-based system but that appears to be the obvious route – so long as it means numbers go down, not up. Dan Hannan [MEP] was correct to say (prudently, after the vote) that no one on the Brexit actually promised to reduce immigration – they couldn’t. But if Brexit doesn’t provide it, boy, there’ll be trouble ahead. I mean, more than we’ll be getting anyway.

Leavers remain silent

It is still advisable for Leavers to refrain from discussing their vote or the result. The Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson aptly described the mood at the weekend, which will no doubt continue in the coming weeks:

I suspect a lot of people who voted out have mixed emotions this weekend, especially given how emotional the debate became. People on both sides did go a little bit mad. My Twitter feed reminded me of that Danny Boyle film 28 Days Later: you watch with horror as friend after friend (on either side of the debate) is infected with the Human Rage Virus. All of a sudden, it’s not possible to have friendly disagreements: you turn into The Enemy for them. And it’s not just a social media thing: there are still people, this weekend, afraid to tell their friends and family how they voted.

Indeed. We were able to openly discuss the result with several Leaver friends on Friday, people we see once a year at best.

We have since resumed our earlier silence on the matter.

This is the best advice for all of us:

No one ever said this would be easy, regardless of the result. We now need to put aside our differences and work together for our nation’s future.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpgOne of last week’s posts featured Charles Haddon Spurgeon‘s insights on eternity.

Today’s entry throws the spotlight on his assessment of the Church of the 19th century and how she — and we today — can achieve unity. There are several quotes at the link. This is one of them:

It is not likely we should all see eye to eye. You cannot make a dozen watches all tick to the same time, much less make a dozen men all think the same thoughts. But, still, if we should all bow our thoughts to that one written Word, and would own no authority but the Bible, the Church could not be divided, could not be cut in pieces as she now is. 307.167

The Bible — divinely inspired — is read and heeded by too few Christians. Some of us prefer delving into religious self-help books, others poetry or modern church music.

Making a silent, personal commitment to reading and studying the truths of the Bible is the best way we can improve our relationship with Jesus, God and our fellow man.

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 19:3-6

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

—————————————————————————————

Last week’s entry discussed the first two verses of Matthew 19, which introduce Jesus’s teachings on divorce.

He was now in Judea, beyond the Jordan, in a region called Perea.

As last week’s post explained, the crowds continued to gather around Him. Among them were the usual groupings of the Jewish hierarchy.

The Pharisees approached Jesus with a question on the legality of divorce for any cause (verse 3). This question was designed to trap and discredit Him.

There was also another angle. The Pharisees were known to divorce their wives for any reason, no matter how trivial. I wrote about this at length in 2014 when discussing Luke 16:18.

Briefly, two schools of Jewish thought existed on the matter. Rabbi Shammai said that divorce was strictly forbidden. Rabbi Hillel said that any trivial reason provided grounds for divorce. Not surprisingly, Hillel’s argumentation was the more popular with the Pharisees.

There is also a third aspect regarding not only the institution of marriage but also the location of this confrontation. John MacArthur says that John the Baptist was held prisoner in Perea, at or near Herod Antipas’s summer home in Machaerus. John the Baptist had warned Herod Antipas about his adulterous relationship with Herodias, who grew very angry with his pronouncements. Her daughter was the one who requested the beheading of this last great prophet of the Bible.

Instead of debating the Pharisees on schools of rabbinical thought, Jesus answered by going straight to the creation story (verses 4 – 6). He cited Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24:

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

He asked if they had never read those verses before. They, of course, would have done. Therefore, it was time for Him to remind them of their meaning and import. As Matthew Henry’s commentary states (emphases mine):

Note, It will be of great use to us often to think of our creation, how and by whom, what and for what, we were created. He made them male and female, one female for one male so that Adam could not divorce his wife, and take another, for there was no other to take. It likewise intimated an inseparable union between them Eve was a rib out of Adam’s side, so that he could not put her away, but he must put away a piece of himself, and contradict the manifest indications of her creation.

Subsequent formal marriage ceremony rites symbolise the reuniting of man with woman into one, indissoluble body. This makes the bonds of marriage the strongest of family relationships:

a man must leave his parents, to cleave to his wife. See here the power of a divine institution, that the result of it is a union stronger than that which results from the highest obligations of nature.

it is in a manner equivalent to that between one member and another in the natural body. As this is a reason why husbands should love their wives, so it is a reason why they should not put away their wives, for no man ever yet hated his own flesh, or cut it off, but nourishes and cherishes it, and does all he can to preserve it. They two shall be one, therefore there must be but one wife, for God made but one Eve for one Adam, Malachi 2:15.

Note that God did not make more than one male and one female. His plan and His purpose in doing this should remind us of the fundamentals of couples and their loving bond.

John MacArthur points out what God did and did not do:

He did not make provision for polygamy.  He did not make provision for divorce by making any spare people

When he made them, he made them a male and a female, and that was it.  Not a male and two females, not four folks who could work it out the best way.  Very basic.  So, in the case of Adam and Eve, divorce was not only wrong, it was inadvisable.  Not only that, it was impossible.  It was absolutely impossible.  There were no alternatives.  There was nowhere to go, no one else to talk to, nothing.  That’s the way God meant it.  If it isn’t you two, it isn’t anything.  This is God’s intended creation, a non-optional, indissoluble union …

And just because spares came along as time went on didn’t change God’s original intention, you understand?  It didn’t change it at all.  And God never intended two people to be married and be poking around seeing if they like somebody better.  That is not an alternative that God ever intended, and that’s obvious by virtue of his creation. 

MacArthur explains the word ‘cleave’:

It means basically “to have a bond that can’t be broken.”  It’s a word that’s used really for glue.  It means “to be stuck”  …  It’s a happy stuck and not a sad stuck.  That’s the idea here.  But you’re stuck.  You are cleaving, the idea of glue.  In fact, there’s a translation … where it even uses the word “glue” in Genesis 2 to refer to this.  “A man should be glued to his wife.” 

There also is inherent in the word another thought that takes it into the heart a little more, and it’s sometimes used to speak of pursuing hard after something.  And so you have the idea then of two people who are stuck together, and are so because they pursue hard after each other.  So you have two hearts diligently and utterly committed to pursuing one another in love … Glued in mind, glued in will, glued in spirit, glued in emotion

Malachi 2:16 is relevant in this context, likening divorce to attacking oneself physically:

For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,[a] says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers[b] his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Henry considers that verse and the Greek word used in the ancient text of Matthew 19:6:

From hence he infers, What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Note, (1.) Husband and wife are of God’s joining together synezeuxenhe hath yoked them together, so the word is, and it is very significant. God himself instituted the relation between husband and wife in the state of innocence. Marriage and the sabbath are the most ancient of divine ordinances. Though marriage be not peculiar to the church, but common to the world, yet, being stamped with a divine institution, and here ratified by our Lord Jesus, it ought to be managed after a godly sort, and sanctified by the word of God, and prayer. A conscientious regard to God in this ordinance would have a good influence upon the duty, and consequently upon the comfort, of the relation. (2.) Husband and wife, being joined together by the ordinance of God, are not to be put asunder by any ordinance of man. Let not man put them asunder not the husband himself, nor any one for him not the magistrate, God never gave him authority to do it. The God of Israel hath said, that he hateth putting away, Malachi 2:16. It is a general rule that man must not go about to put asunder what God hath joined together.

Next week’s entry will explore why divorce came into being during Moses’s time.

For now, perhaps these verses and this type of explanation should be made more a part of courses undertaken in preparation for marriage. We normally think of the marriage ceremony in church as defining the indissoluble character of such a union.

The greater headline to take away is that the ceremony is secondary in importance to the symbolic fusion of husband and wife in the same way that Adam and Eve were bonded together as two people, the rib once again ‘united’ with the rest into one ‘body’, functioning as one entity together in love.

That pertains to secular wedding ceremonies, too, whether those couples believe it or not.

This is why it is so important we make a careful, deliberate decision before undertaking the commitment and consequences of the marital contract.

Next time: Matthew 19:7-9

Time permits only a brief post today.

The British people have spoken via the ballot box.

Will June 24 be considered as the UK’s ‘independence day’? I hope so.

The results of the EU Referendum were 51.9% Leave and 48.1% Remain with turnout at just over 72%.

Unfortunately, our Prime Minister David Cameron resigned shortly after 8 a.m. today, Friday, June 24. He did this of his own accord. He stated that he would remain as PM until the Conservative Party conference in October, when a new party leader will be chosen.

Brexit may well trigger a second independence referendum in Scotland.

However, despite market upsets earlier today in stocks and Sterling, similar exit referenda might now be held elsewhere in Europe. I was listening to RMC’s (French talk radio) programmes today. The flagship morning programme took a listeners’ poll on the topic; 73% of them would like a referendum! A conservative French MP said that Brexit was a clear signal that EU elites in Brussels need to start listening to European citizens. He is absolutely right.

Columnist Brendan O’Neill said the same thing in The Spectator:

This result should send a clear warning to every politician and bureaucrat: do not dare to take the people for granted; do not presume that they think the same way as you do; do not underestimate their capacity to think about things and discuss them and to chuck out political ideas and systems they don’t like. There is plenty of time for breakdowns of how Britain voted, for tears among the Remain campaign, and for celebrations among Leavers; but for now, let us marvel at the fact that democracy works, that democracy is powerful, and that the people can think for themselves. It is rare that politics makes me get a lump in my throat, but today it has, because generations of people fought and died for the right we have just exercised — the right to determine the destiny of our nation and to change the world.

I can’t top that.

I will be celebrating in full today: lunch with a party to follow this evening.

More analysis will come in the coming weeks.

To all those who voted for the people and democracy, many thanks!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpgCharles Haddon Spurgeon was a Victorian preacher and founder of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

He was a Particular Baptist, meaning that he allied himself with the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith which is essentially Calvinist, outside of adult baptism.

He is still widely quoted today and is known as the Prince of Preachers.

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

Spurgeon admirers may already be acquainted with Spurgeon.US, which is a repository of over 4,000 quotes from this great man. The topics are categorised alphabetically. This is truly a treasure trove of Protestant Christianity.

I enjoyed reading what Spurgeon had to say on eternity. A few gems follow. The numbers at the end of the quotes are the sermon numbers. Emphases mine below.

When the wheel turns, those who are lowest rise, and the highest sink. Patience, then, believer, eternity will right the wrongs of time. ME280

Time tries most things, but eternity tries all. 1736.465

Certain men in these days declare that “everlasting” does not mean everlasting, but indicates a period to which an end will come sooner or later; I have no sympathy with them, and feel no inclination to renounce the everlastingness of heaven and other divine blessings in order to gratify the tastes of wicked men by denying the eternity of future punishments. 1186.438

A new way of reading the Bible has been invented in these highly enlightened days. I used to get on exceedingly well with the book years ago, for it seemed clear and plain enough, but modern interpreters would puzzle us out of our wits and out of our souls, if they could, by their vile habit of giving new meanings to plain words. Thank God, I keep to the old simple way; but I am informed that the inventors of the new minimizing glasses manage to read the big words small, and they have even read down the word “everlasting” into a little space of time. Everlasting may be six weeks or six months according to them. I use no such glasses; my eyes remain the same, and “everlasting” is “everlasting” to me whether I read of everlasting life or everlasting punishment. If I clip the word in one place I must do so in another, and it will never do to have a terminable heaven. I cannot afford to give it up here when its meaning is joyous to the saint, and therefore not there when its sound is terrible to the sinner. 1413.271

What saith the Scripture? “Eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord”—not, a moment, and then it is all over; but eternal destruction. The Scripture has put the two side by side, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” The same word applies to both. As long as heaven shall shine so long hell shall burn. As long as the saints are happy, so long shall those whose impenitence has made them castaways be wretched. 3324.497

We could do with thousands of Charles Spurgeons today.

Sadly, our seminaries aren’t quite up to creating great evangelists.

Still, let us be thankful we have plenty of Spurgeon material at our disposal.

Stained glass shadows westernskycommunicationscomPeople are leaving the Church for a variety of reasons.

Micah J Murray has a post exploring those reasons. The commenters have more. This one says, in part:

I am weary of going face-to-face and having others think there is something wrong just because I look down or am not smiling. Could it be possible that in my despair or quietness, I am closer to God than ever before?

Precisely.

Yet, it seems that going to church now has to be a psychoanalytical, therapeutic exercise with the pastor or vicar silently summing up a newcomer or the occasional attendee after the service. Everyone is assumed to be an emotional cripple, and the clergyman is the guy (or gal) who will make that decision.

Why can’t we go back to the old days when we went to church to worship God? Why do we have to join at least one group or committee in order to be considered proper church members? Yes, I know there are verses from St Paul’s letters which encourage that, but his converts were also establishing fledgling Church communities. The Church grew into huge national and international denominational organisations.

Therefore, not everyone has to be ‘active’ in order to be a church member in good standing. Priests and ministers will disagree, but this is yet another reason why people shy away from either church worship or attending too often. They don’t want to be too well acquainted with clergy or other members. It could lead to further involvement.

Clergy and elders should really leave people alone and let them decide whether to get involved in groups and committees, most of which are surrogate forms of therapy.

Church is primarily for worship — spending structured time with God and Christ Jesus.

For many churchgoers, true worship is all that they want. Please let them be.

Although writing about a secular subject, author John M Barry wrote the following in his book The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. His words could also be applied to the church congregations of yesteryear:

They are simply a loose confederation of individuals, each of whom remains largely a free agent whose achievements are independent of the institution but who also shares and benefits from association with others. In these cases the institution simply provides an infrastructure that supports the individual, allowing him or her to flourish so that the whole often exceeds the sum of the parts.

Many would like to see a return to that kind of outlook.

This is my final post on the EU Referendum before June 23, 2016.

All my previous posts on the topic are under Brexit. They appear when you click that link.

Emphases mine below, unless otherwise specified.

Two must-see films

Yesterday, I said that I would post two more important films, in addition to Brexit: The Movie.

The first is 35 minutes long and is an independent production from 2008. The late Sir Patrick Moore introduced it. Two journalists, one of whom is The Telegraph‘s Christopher Booker, an economist and a Russian refugee to the UK made the case for our leaving the EU.

It provides a useful history of the EU in short segments. One of the early segments explains how the EU was designed from the beginning to expand incrementally, step by step, not only in terms of territory but also in structure.

Writer and lecturer Vladimir Bukovsky had the final segment. He saw a direct parallel between the growth and structure of the former USSR and that of the EU. Chilling.

The second film is from Labour Leave. Lexit the Movie is an hour long. It traces the Labour Party’s historical opposition to the EU in the 1970s. It also describes how the UK declined by being in the EU.

The fisheries segment is particularly depressing. Important English and Scottish ports, which used to be bustling with hundreds of boats and hundreds of fishing industry employees, have shrunk to a handful of vessels and a few dozen workers. The fishermen who came of age in the 1970s tell their stories most ably.

Labour politicians, union leaders and workers explain why leaving the EU will benefit Great Britain. I strongly encourage my Labour-leaning readers to take an hour out of their day to watch this. Kate Hoey is in it. She is a remarkable politician. George Galloway and Jim Sillars are also interviewed. Keep in mind that those three entered politics around the time of the first referendum in 1975 (see next part of the post), so that experience no doubt formed their thinking on the subject. All make excellent points, even though I am not at all keen on Labour or George Galloway.

Several of the people interviewed said the big banks, such as JP Morgan, are the ones encouraging Remain, because that is what would benefit them.

Two short clips and some history

Labour – 1970s

In 2013, not long before his death, the former Labour MP Tony Benn addressed the Oxford Union and discussed the EU, which he said would

frighten and demoralise people

into remaining. This clip is two and a half minutes long. Again, I was never a Benn fan, but he was spot on regarding Brussels:

Benn spearheaded the effort to give the British people their first referendum on EU membership in 1975. He warned how dangerous remaining would be. And so it has proven 41 years later.

Unfortunately, people were so fed up with the antics of Labour in general under Harold Wilson’s second term that the party did themselves no favours. Even today, people aged 50+ have vivid and unpleasant memories of strikes, three-day working weeks and limited electricity. This discontent ran from 1973 through to 1979. This is why Margaret Thatcher took such a tough stance when she won the 1979 election. She also actively campaigned for Britain to stay in the European project in 1975.

As a result, the British voted overwhelmingly to remain in the Common Market, as it was known at the time. Not surprisingly, everyone believed it would remain a trade-based construct. The truth was in the name, wasn’t it?

Now it is called the European Union, with a bevy of unelected officials and highly-paid bureaucrats who want to break down the nation state and replace it bit by bit with a centrally-controlled federation run by anonymous, unaccountable men and women who influence our law-making and destroy our distinctive history.

Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker exemplifies this perfectly. The Telegraph has a few of his most outrageous quotes, which include the following (emphases in the original):

On EU monetary policy

“I’m ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious … I am for secret, dark debates”

On British calls for a referendum over Lisbon Treaty

“Of course there will be transfers of sovereignty. But would I be intelligent to draw the attention of public opinion to this fact?”

Are Remainers understanding the bigger picture now?

Norway – 1994

On June 20, BBC’s The Daily Politics had a short feature on the pressure put on Norway to vote to join the EU in 1994.

Jo Coburn interviewed Norwegian politician Anne Tvinnereim, who described the Project Fear rhetoric. Much of what she cited sounds exactly like what the Remain camp have been telling us 22 years later — especially the figure that each household would lose per year in income.

Tvinnereim said that Norwegians heard they would be a small, meaningless country; they would never have trade agreements again and they would experience long-term financial disaster. Of course, none of that happened. The Norwegians wisely declined to join the EU and are part of the EEA. Tvinnereim said that the agreement is not perfect, but it is workable for the time being. Kate Hoey was on the panel and said that, if Britain votes Leave, the EEA could have subsequent scope for reform. Hoey, incidentally, stated that she does not believe Britain needs to be part of the EEA or any other formal trading bloc.

Who’s saying what

Now for a round-up of the latest soundbites.

George Soros – Remain

Amazingly, The Guardian had the chutzpah today to lead with an article written by, of all people, George Soros.

It seems he is their latest and best poster boy for Remain.

Unbelievable.

If that doesn’t want to make you vote Leave, I don’t know what will.

Physiocrat, a Catholic blogger from Britain who lives in Sweden, dismantles Soros’s reasons for Remaining and asks:

I wonder how much Soros stands to lose from a Brexit vote?

Indeed!

Theo Usherwood, London’s LBC radio Political Editor tweeted:

Market speculation – George Soros… Job creation – Anthony Bamford, James Dyson, says Boris Johnson.

Just so.

Emmanuel Macron – Remain

On June 17, France’s economy minister Emmanuel Macron said that if Brexit wins:

Leaving the EU would mean the ‘Guernseyfication’ of the UK, which would then be a little country on the world scale. It would isolate itself and become a trading post and arbitration place at Europe’s border.

Gosh, that sounds remarkably like what Anne Tvinnereim said Norway was threatened with!

We’ve been the world’s fifth largest economy since 1970 — well before our accession to the EU!

Macron, who previously worked for Rothschild, told France’s RTL radio:

the June 23rd referendum was “dangerous” and that Britain had “taken the rest of the European Union hostage”.

David Beckham – Remain

David Beckham says we should think of the children.

Victoria Beckham – Leave

Victoria Beckham, mother of David’s children, supports Brexit:

The Euro bureaucrats are destroying every bit of national identity and individuality. We must keep our national individuality.

Steve Hilton – Leave

Steve Hilton, former adviser to David Cameron, whose views I wrote about on May 27, said today that reducing the immigration numbers is impossible as long as we stay in the EU:

I remember the meetings on immigration towards the end of my time in Downing Street. Everyone around the table, in some way or another, was working hard to try to deliver the government’s commitment.

We were presented with analysis of the numbers of people coming to Britain through various routes, the impact of policy changes we had already made, and projections stretching into the future.

The news was not good. We were way off target; indeed, the numbers were going in the wrong direction. We explored various policy options — and I’m sure that process continued after I left the government in May 2012. But I recall very clearly one of the points that was made to us by the expert officials in the room.

We were told, directly and explicitly, that it was impossible for the government to meet its immigration target as long as we remained members of the EU, which, of course, insists on the free movement of people within it.

Theo Paphitis – Leave

Theo Paphitis, entrepreneur and star of Dragon’s Den, favours Brexit:

though he added short term gaps in employment should be filled by immigration.

He said: “A trading alliance is really, really good.”

But the businessman, who was born in Cyprus, added: “It has moved more towards federalism than trading, which has brought bureaucracy that makes it difficult to be competitive outside the EU – and also within the EU.”

The big question

I shall leave British readers with the following question, which Leave proponent Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom put forward in the ITV debate a fortnight ago. Christopher Booker reprised it for The Telegraph:

if we weren’t already in it today, is it conceivable that we would now wish to join the European Union as it has become?

Please take the time to read his article in full.

I’ll have more post-referendum once the dust settles.

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