Acton Institute Powerblog

C.S. Lewis and Brexit: Breaking the spell

Despite his work as an apologist and essayist of the highest order, C.S. Lewis’ most famous work is the Chronicles of Narnia. The Silver Chair, the fourth novel published in the series, provides a good framework to understand the state of the European Union, writes Stephen F. Copp in a new essay for Religion & Liberty Transatlantic:

The seductive power of evil and the difficulties of regaining self-determination once lost are well illustrated theologically in C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair. Rilian, the prince of Narnia, and the children, Eustace and Jill, are all-but-convinced through enchantment and clever argument by the Queen of Underland that the real world, the “Overworld,” is but a dream and that there was never any world but her own. Puddleglum, a humble Marsh-wiggle, who clears his thoughts with self-inflicted pain, responds with a magnificent speech. … Only then is the queen’s true nature revealed as she is transformed into a great but loathsome serpent, which the prince, Eustace, and Puddleglum put to death.

Copp, an associate professor of law at Bournemouth University in the UK, writes that first round of Brexit negotiations have similarly exposed EU negotiators’ priorities.

The EU threatened the return of a “hard border” between Protestant, British Northern Ireland and the Catholic, independent Republic of Ireland. Irish officials warned this violation of the Good Friday peace agreement may have had the seeds to touch off another round of religious warfare. “The dream that the EU promotes peace in Europe is in tatters from the way the question of Northern Ireland has been addressed, risking feeding ancient grievances that were fast being healed,” he writes.

In a penetrating essay, Copp delineates the ways which he believes the EU transgresses such European governing values as national self-determination, voluntary and mutually beneficial cooperation, and democratic norms – all in the quest for the maximum economic concessions from Great Britain.

The monetary settlement even took precedence over the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, Copp notes. “Early in the negotiating process German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected May’s calls for an early settlement and Donald Tusk, European Council president, and Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, subsequently objected to discussing the matter – so important for the day to day lives of millions – because it was raised in the wrong venue.”

While phase one of Brexit negotiations tentatively set the “divorce bill” in the range of £35 to £39 billion ($46 to $52 billion U.S.), the EU may yet increase its demands. Copp concludes:

The only good thing to emerge from this unholy mess is that if the UK is prepared to pay such a potentially “monstrous” sum to enable it to leave the EU, it demonstrates that its people are awakening from the spell they have been under, that many still value freedom very much – and can see glimpses of how cold and dark their Underworld prison truly is.

Read his full essay here.

(Photo credit: GlitterandFrills. This photo has been cropped. CC BY 2.0.)

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson is the former Executive Editor of the Acton Institute's flagship journal Religion & Liberty.