After Brexit: Is the European Dream Still Possible?
As a result of the Dec. 12 election, it appears the U.K. will leave the EU in January. Will Brexit hasten or hinder Europe’s long-term goal of unification?
Over the past couple of years, the U.K. government, under Theresa May and Boris Johnson, has tried to comply with the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union—but lack of consensus in Parliament kept blocking the actual withdrawal.
The situation changed quite dramatically after the Dec. 12, 2019, general election that gave Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party a clear majority in the House of Commons.
Not long after the election, the House of Commons passed Mr. Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement by a 358-234 vote. Though the agreement still requires passage by the House of Lords, it seems likely the U.K. will finally leave the EU on Jan. 31, 2020.
Where is the European dream now?
So where does Britain’s impending exit leave the dream of an ever-closer union between member states of the EU? Is fulfillment of that dream still possible?
Some fear that Britain’s exit will severely damage the European project. And, indeed, the EU’s finances will take a major hit once the U.K. leaves. Britain’s monetary contribution to the EU was second only to Germany’s. There are still questions of how the EU will make up for the loss of money from the U.K. Some are suggesting that Germany contribute more into the EU budget.
Free from what is seen as British hesitancy toward political and military unity, the EU could be driven as never before to rekindle its historic drive for deeper unification.Some EU leaders are anxious for other reasons. After the British referendum, the Italian finance minister voiced concerns about a “domino effect” materializing. He was of the opinion that some skeptical electorates in other member states might find the confidence to follow Britain’s example and leave—further obstructing the march to unity.
However, it seems that fear has been allayed by the political chaos and gridlock the U.K. has experienced since the initial Brexit vote. Though the idea of following Britain’s lead may have been appealing to some politicians and voters in EU countries, watching what Brexit has done to the U.K. seems to have actually increased support of the EU.
Some within Europe actually see Britain’s departure as an opportunity for the EU to become more integrated. Britain has historically been wary of deep European political and economic integration and opted not to adopt the common European currency—the euro.
Free from what is seen as British hesitancy toward political and military unity, the EU could be driven as never before to rekindle its historic drive for deeper unification.
The prophetic element in European unity
Unknown to political and religious leaders in Europe, Bible prophecy shows that this will happen—although with very different consequences than those in the minds of today’s European leaders. The union of nations described as “the beast” in Revelation 17 can arise in no other place on earth except Europe.
To gain an understanding of Europe’s future, we need first to be reminded of its historical highlights, its character and its long-held religion. Putting these characteristics together in the bright light of Bible prophecy, we can begin to understand Europe’s future as never before.
The dream of a united Europe has permeated the history of the continent and the Catholic Church ever since Rome fell in A.D. 476.
In 554 Emperor Justinian accomplished the dream and became emperor of a short-lived, nominally Christian empire.
In 800 Charlemagne was crowned Roman emperor by Pope Leo III and created a close alliance between church and state. He restored the empire in the west and was known as the “Father of Europe.” To learn more, read “Europe Celebrates Charlemagne: The Father of Europe.”
In 962 Otto the Great rejuvenated the Charlemagne Empire as the first fully German Reich, or empire. He was crowned by Pope John VII and labeled his empire as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation—thus making Germany the power center of Europe.
In the 16th century, the medieval ideal of a united empire embracing the entire Christian world was pursued unsuccessfully by Habsburg Emperor Charles V.
In 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned by Pope Pius VII and attempted to unite Europe under the banner of France. Napoleon saw himself as a new Caesar and Charlemagne.
In the 1930s and early 1940s Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini also saw themselves as restoring the Roman Empire (Mussolini focusing on the ancient Roman Empire created by Italians, and Hitler focusing on reviving the Holy Roman Empire centered in Germany).
All of the above men who claimed to be restoring the Roman Empire clearly understood the importance of involving the papacy. Throughout the last two millennia, the Roman church was considered God’s instrument of authority.
What about Europe today?
Today biblical prophecy is belittled and ignored by most, even those who profess Christianity. Yet the Bible is a source for understanding Europe and its future.
In 1946 Winston Churchill put forward the age-old European ideal, that the continent should build “a kind of United States of Europe.” If the nations of Europe could put aside their long-term differences and unite into a union that made them all mutually dependent on each other, many felt that future continental wars could be avoided. The earliest plans called for Germany and France to be bound into the European Coal and Steel Community.
In 1957 the Treaty of Rome was signed and the European Economic Community, better known as the Common Market, was born. It had six charter members. Many acclaimed it as the nucleus of a new United States of Europe. The dream of a modern Holy Roman Empire was continuing—just being built in a different way. Instead of conquest, the dream was being achieved by peaceful union and integrating the economies of Europe.
Repeatedly throughout the last two centuries, popes have spoken passionately concerning Europe’s future. Pope John Paul II made it very clear that he believed God had called him to promote the unification of Europe.
In 1982 in his “Declaration to Europe,” he wrote, “I, Bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the Universal Church, … utter to you, Europe of the ages, a cry full of love: Find yourself again. Be yourself. Discover your origins. Revive your roots.”
On May 6, 2016, Pope Francis was presented the Charlemagne Prize for contributing to European unification. “Francis was selected as this year’s recipient for reiterating values central to Europe: solidarity, compassion, tolerance and respect for others, as well as for his message of peace and understanding” (New York Times).
Bible prophecy reveals that there will be a final effort toward European unity when 10 kings (nations or groupings of nations) will “give their power and authority to the beast” (Revelation 17:13). This political leader, called the beast, will once again be reunited with a religious leader from Rome, known as “the false prophet” and “the great harlot” (Revelation 16:13; 17:1). The result will be a final political and religious union in Europe.
The Church of God has forecast for decades that Britain will not be part of that final European superstate. It now appears that will become a reality on Jan. 31. After Britain leaves the EU, we will keep our eye on what develops within the U.K. and the EU.
Brexit has put the British union in danger by provoking the Scottish people to want another referendum on their independence from the United Kingdom. Could Brexit lead to the end of the United Kingdom as we know it?
What will happen within the EU as it moves forward without one of its most powerful member states? Will it unravel, morph into a weaker version of itself, or find a way to become even stronger?
Time will tell.
Keep watching Europe!
Originally published on June 27, 2016. Last updated on Jan. 3, 2020.