So the “leaves” have it. From looking like a cliff-hanger yesterday, Britain’s referendum on continued membership of the European Union has resulted in a clear vote for terminating that relationship. It is a world-shaking event. Global financial markets have had conniptions and the pound has plummeted.
But the 52 percent of Britons who voted for Brexit are jubilant. “Independence Day” they are calling it, as they foresee an end to “uncontrolled” immigration with its effect on the job market and social services, and to being bossed around by unaccountable political elites headquartered in Brussels.
If that were all that is wrong with Britain the future might indeed look bright. But behind the burning issues of the day is a long-term cultural trend which the country shares with most of Europe and the rest of the West: neglect of the family. This has been undermining Britain since before it joined the European Economic Community in 1973. Acceptance of divorce, abortion, pre-marital sex and the cohabitation and single motherhood that goes with it have left the social fabric weaker the pound at the end of trading today.
This is not just a list of puritanical do-nots; the family unit has a fundamental and irreplaceable role in bringing up citizens who can look after themselves and contribute to the common good. But the sexual revolution has fractured it in many ways.
In the same year that Britain entered the EEC, England and Wales introduced no-fault divorce. Around 40 percent of marriages now end in divorce, and rates are falling among younger couples mainly because so many are not marrying at all. Nearly half of British children are now born to unmarried couples – and that proportion would be higher if it were not counterbalanced by high rates of marital childbearing among immigrant families. Abortion, liberalised in England and Wales in 1967, has allowed the killing of more than eight million unborn children since then — 185,824 of them last year.
Several European countries are doing better in terms of family life, but no busybody in Brussels has been able to make the Brits better at marrying and giving their kids a stable home. “Broken Britain” is how a UK think tank summed up these trends a few years ago, and a broken society is a costly thing to run.
So if the new, independent Britain wants to show Europe how well it can go it alone, here is what it needs to do:
Protect marriage by getting rid of no-fault divorce. Saving marriages protects the happiness, health and educational success of children. It increases the chances that those children will marry rather than cohabit and that their unions will last. It also reduces welfare spending incurred when the state has to play the role of parent and nurse.
Support married families by a fair tax system, one that recognises the vital role they play in raising happy and confident children. Make it possible for them to spend enough time together, and especially for the mother to be more available for the children when they are young. This is what most women actually want.
Protect the fertility and future happiness of adolescents by educating them for love and service, not for sex. New figures from the United States show that nearly six out of ten high school kids have not had sex; if they can do that in a pornified popular culture, what could be done in one that was really trying to give young people a cleaner environment.
Promote the value and dignity of every human being by discouraging British women from doing away with their unborn children. Increasingly it is married or partnered women over 30, many already mothers, who are boosting abortion statistics. Supporting marriage and family will make it easier for them to have the second or third child.
Stop treating religion and its institutions as an obstacle to freedom and wellbeing. Plenty of research shows the opposite – that people who attend church regularly are more likely to have a lasting marriage, not only because they are more religious to start with, but because they find both personal and cultural support there. Of course, churches, synagogues and mosques have to earn respect, but not by becoming the lapdogs of liberal culture.
If you do these things, O leavers, it won’t be your fault if Britannia fails to rule the wave once more.
Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.