Thursday, 30 June 2016

Brexit Battles Ahead

Middle-aged man with glasses, eyes shut and fingers in ears

Brexit has gone over the top. Ironically, today is the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.  It achieved nothing. It robbed both sides of a generation.

History teaches us that the seeds of the Second World War were sown in the negotiations at the end of the First World War. The desire to punish creates new grievances. Nasty Brexit negotiations will sow such seeds.

Where is home?
Brexit’s uncertainty has all the makings of a new war. There has already been a marked increase in hate crime. It’s already too late for a genuine Brexit. There are children here from many European nations who know only Britain as their home. They can’t go home – they are at home. Vulnerable British expat pensioners are now more at home in Spain and Cyprus.

Hungarian children at a London event
Scare stories
Brexit could turn into a bitter civil war. We have already seen how irresponsible political campaigning may have caused two young children to lose their mother. As the lawyers on both sides play hard ball with each other, the Media will report scare stories. Those affected by the conflict will not be arranged in trenches on opposite sides. They will be living intermingled with the ‘enemy’. It’s a powder keg that can only lead to tears.

It is ridiculous that the pound collapsed based on the Brexit announcement. Britain had triple a AAA rating. France has risen in the economic ranks without lifting a finger. We haven’t even left. It’s not clear if we can extract ourselves constitutionally. The financial markets are crazy. They make money and cause human suffering from such madness.

Science and Climate Change
The best European scientists should be working together on climate change solutions. Brexit could prove a costly distraction. Rumours already suggest that it might not be a good idea to apply for EU grants with British universities, even though there are two more years to run until Brexit. Fear and uncertainty is enough to create this new approach. So where will scientists go? Will all their expertise head for Germany and create further economic and industrial imbalance in Europe?

Brexit Issues
There is an elephant in the room. No-one likes to mention it. How do you ask the question and answer it tactfully? Why did elderly Brits vote for Brexit?

Yes, immigration was a major issue. Ordinary people are the ones who feel the consequences in hospitals, GP surgeries, housing shortages, etc. They are still suffering the consequences of the financial crisis – worrying about job security and pensions.

Despite all the issues, the older generation particularly stress that they don’t like to be told what to do by Europe. My parents’ generation were children during the Second World War and its aftermath. Their generation is very conscious of the sacrifices made by earlier generations. They respect the great debt that can never be repaid. Today Germany is again the strongest nation in Europe. Can you honestly blame them for feeling uneasy? They are keeping a watchful eye out for their grandchildren – those same grandchildren who are currently angry with them for destroying their European future. Which generation is right? There are probably elements of truth in both viewpoints as ever.

German supremacy was highlighted when I visited the European Parliament earlier this year. Voting is based on population numbers. Turkey is closely allied with Germany and will have a high number of votes on entry. The balance is wrong and needs adjustment. Smaller nations are complaining. The German President of the European Parliament wants to stay on again beyond his agreed time. If he were of any other nationality maybe this would not be such an issue. Perhaps the German people can tell him to go? No German that I have ever met wants to create an atmosphere of fear - or even an inkling of one.

Farcical Politics
British politics currently resembles a farce. It is a blend of Belgian and German politics. Resignations all over the place. The United Kingdom’s constitutional issues are so entangled that it may take 2 years to find a way through. We are more a part of Europe than the ordinary Brit realised. It’s not possible to extricate ourselves without enormous social and economic pain for all member states.

The UK's piece of the European Puzzle ©Octavus

Timely, Flexible Thinking
When I visited Berlin in 2014, Germans told me about their labour market. They recounted how difficult it is in Germany to change your profession. The future job market demands greater adaptability. At this time Europe requires less rigid, more out-of-the box thinking from its policy-makers. The ethical and social challenges of technological developments are coming fast and furious. We need timely, flexible thinking and access to the best brains in all fields.

As an experienced project manager, I know that no project ever runs directly to the plan. You have to adjust your thinking mid-project to reach a successful conclusion. Sometimes you have to rewrite the rulebook because the old one is more of a hindrance than a help.

Nation of Debunkers
I recognise that my wonderful, brave, independent island is a repeated thorn in European sides. Britain regularly provides the perfect foil to rigid German thinking and French idealism. We provide counterbalance. As David Cameron said we are a nation of debunkers. If something is not working, we will not pretend that it is, as other friendly nations may. We are a pragmatic race. For us, Europe must work and be seen to be working.

Dear EU, sometimes it is your best friend who tells you the truth you do not want to hear. Please take your fingers out of your ears.