Kindness and Laughter – Europe is Bemused, Baffled and Bewildered By the UK’s Zombie Brexit

An Opinion Piece by Matthew Hill

The EU government and press are laughing at the collective miss-step of UK citizens, some of whom believed that the NHS pot would be topped up to the tune of £350 million a week or that UK employment would grow along with the economy after Brexit, or that their farm protest vote against the British Government’s DEFRA ministry was a protest vote against an EU department.

breturn

They are laughing at us

As that laughter calms, European minds are turning to our common issues, mutual interests as well as the need for defence and everybody’s prosperity.

The kindness of strangers

It is at this point we witness the kindness of strangers – Germany’s Federal Minister of Finance, Wolfgang Shaeuble, New French President, Emmanuel Macron, Former Belgian Prime Minister, outspoken and popular EU Politician, Guy Verhofstadt, and President of the European Council, Donald Tusk – all wish to throw us a lifeline and keep us IN and do what is best for the EU and best for Britain – Breturn.

Shocked girl eavesdropping.

Listening?

If only we would listen

We are currently being held hostage to Hard Brexit by a tiny number of Tory Euro sceptic bullies threatening the ever fragile Theresa May with oblivion if she does not condemn Britain to the roughest of roads.

Imagine Theresa May is the Bank Manager being forced to rob her own bank to save her family who are sitting trembling in their living room facing a masked man with a shotgun. Oh dear.

Strange Patriotism

Patriotic?

Only one person seems weaker and wobblier than PMTM at the moment and that is Andrea Leadsom who attempted to bully and shame the BBC’s Emily Maitlis recently by calling for the British media to be more, “Patriotic.”

How patriotic is it for a Prime Minister to be prepared to say and do anything she needs to just to stay in the job? How patriotic is it to pursue Hard Brexit when she was a Remainer knowing that was the better option. How patriotic is it to bribe the DUP with £1,000,000,000 to keep herself in the job and her minority party in power, or to call an election in order to receive a blank cheque from a divided nation to pursue her version of a bank robbery with Tory Euro-sceptics wearing the masks and holding the weapons? How patriotic is it to chase Brexit when 95% of economists agree it will be bad for the country.

Trade

The EU cares more about Britain than do Tory Euro-sceptics. Europe wishes for us to prosper. And for the right reasons – DD – The Brexit Minister, David Davis points out the EU to UK surplus – They bring £290 billion worth of goods and services here and we send £230 billion there.

With a bit of luck DD will continue to bash into a brick wall against EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier just long enough for the confused British public to finally realise that we have little or no power to get a better deal on Brexit?

And, Brexit is completely reversible. That reversal is an opportunity for us to survive and prosper.

If we are clever now, our European friends may forgive us our moment of madness on 23rd June 2016. The powerful influencers, Shaeuble, Macron, Verhofstadt, and Tusk – are offering us a welcome and dignified return to Europe on decent terms. Remember – Europe represents a QUARTER OF THE WORLD’S ECONOMY.

So, What are our Euro options in reverse order from bad to good?

4, No Deal – We collectively fall off a cliff and beg President Macron to please please be kind to us in Calais as our lorries mount up and every pork pie, bottle or brown sauce and Parker pen is inspected by 3 bored French customs officials.

3, Hard Brexit – Bringing an economic recession, a departure of critical EU labour essential to keep the wheels on the British economic bus and the prospect of relying on the kindness of the rest of the world who, obviously, are already supplied with everything they need by OTHER countries. In a decade or two we could recover, though we will have lost at least 6% of our cumulative growth potential as we scramble to catch up.

2, Soft Brexit – We take the Norway style deal and pay a premium for access to the Single Market and have the freedom to control migration (we already do BTW.) This is marginally worse than option 1. It will not satisfy the racists, the Euro sceptics, or the stressed UK regions (that will still lose their valuable EU regional grants) and will hardly have been worth all the grief, cost and social division. Or, lastly,

  1. Breturn – Business as normal, probably with a few sweeteners and reforms that everyone wants anyway. The naughty British child is allowed to return to the party and we all promise to play nicely again. We do not have to pay the £60,000,000,000 leaving bill (just under a £3,000 per household), we keep the biggest trading block in the world on side and the Stage 3 Cancer that is Hard Brexit is zapped by rays of EU kindness at the last minute in a Brussels Hospital and goes into remission before reaching Stage 4 (There is no Stage 5!)

    Breturn

    Breturn to Health

The Independent newspaper seems to understand Breturn and some significant politicians are now starting to seek cross party engagement to form an effective opposition to PMTM. At the same time the more engaged Brits are warming to the idea of general resistance against the damage of Hard Brexit and its costs to British people.

Maybe we will face a brighter, cancer free, future after all as Brits wake up and face the real prospects of the Zombie Hard Brexit Apocalypse. Watch this space.

 

May’s Brexit Election – A Cultural View – by Matthew Hill

Words from a divided nation

This week Prime Minister May called a snap election to, “unify the country” and allow her to negotiate with the EU on behalf of all of the UK so that she may go out there and get all the good things and have none of the bad.

It will not play out like that.

Big Ben and House of Parliament at River Thames International La

The scene of the crime – Prime Suspect – David Cameron – Do not approach

Before we look at the cultural aspects of BREXIT, let us remind ourselves how we got into this mess in the first place.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne had suffered from criticism and power plays from various factions within their OWN party. This was a Conservative party spat, a “Blue on Blue” bun fight. Chancer Cameron had bluffed his way through the Scottish independence vote and won. He had made another reckless referendum offer before the 2015 election and had never, in his wildest dreams, considered that the UK would be so stupid as to vote the wrong way. And then, in an historically irresponsible and arrogant move, proposed that a simple majority, either way, would dictate the UK’s future relationship with our closest neighbours and largest trading and defence partners. When, the old, the poor and the anti London / anti-elitists (and racists) voted to leave in June 2016, the UK was plunged into uncertainty and became the laughing stock of Europe, all over again.

And now CULTURE

In the war of words BREXIT supporters tended to focus on “immigrants taking our jobs in the UK” and, ”taking back control from Brussels”. Subjects on which both sides were quiet or silent were the cultural and historical perspectives that will come into play now we are leaving Europe and how these will affect us all.

The cultural benefits of immigrants

Between 2004 and 2014, 2.5 million EU citizens chose to come to the UK to live and work. This has made a net positive contribution to UK GDP, productivity measures per worker and tax revenues for the Treasury. In addition, the cultural benefit has been palpable. [Most British people struggle to speak even one language properly (innit)] The vast majority of newly arrived workers speak their native language and passable English as well. Many speak two or more languages and add to the country’s human capital, fuelling the most important parts of the British economy – the export of goods and services to other countries. Having freshly arrived people from our target export markets helps us with both local language and market wisdom as we send our crated goods on their way in lorries headed for the Continent.

Tropical caribbean island in open ocean

A Small Island Near Europe

Immigrants work harder

This sometimes unpalatable truth is most threatening to the unskilled sector where jobs are performed by employees that are exchangeable and expendable. This is not the fault of the newly arrived workers or the indigenous population. It is the way jobs are designed today with most school education being instantly forgotten and individuals adapting to the job market, ending up as minimum wage and sub-living wage employees. Our history as a rich and formerly powerful empire has created a subtle level of expectation for many British workers below which they will not consider working. The average Brit is not rushing to get up at 5 AM and wait for a van on a street corner to head off and pick vegetables on a chilly spring morning. Other EU nationals are.

Fight or trade?

From an historical perspective, when a couple of tribes live in close proximity they have two strategic directions in which to go. They can either battle or exchange goods and services. The main rationale for the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 thus establishing the European Economic Community, the EEC, was to facilitate trade and exchange as the best way of preventing the repetition of the double tragedies of the 20th century.

Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing.

Whilst we are on the subject of not learning from history, let us remember that what unified Germany and the Axis powers in their support for Hitler’s strategies and ideas in the 1930s were austerity measures set out in the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Imposed by the victors upon the losers, it created an attractive option for Axis powers – support the German war effort in return for the restoration of lost power and lands – Hitler promised to turn back time.

Teamwork

The EU agreement was the equivalent of a peace treaty. When a peace treaty is signed all parties agree to forgive, to back down from aggression and to cooperate. A lot of European history and baggage has been locked away in the cupboard, for the sake of trading cooperation, EU subsidies and grants and peace. Culturally speaking, Brexit is the key that opens this cupboard and opens many wounds from the past. [Do we really want to re-examine the roles perpetrated by Hitler and Napoleon at a time when we will be negotiating trade tariffs?]

Do we really want videos of the Euro-skeptic rhetoric played before we enter the room with our Continental cousins?

The subjects discussed around European dinner table may turn to reparation, retribution and rebuke.

New bilateral treaties

Instead of the centralised and overly controlling Brussels technocrats telling each of the EU member states what they can and cannot do, we are now in the unique position of sending out negotiation teams to each EU country and negotiating separate bilateral terms regarding defence, trade and the mobility of citizens (country nationals).

To some this represents the essence of opportunity and control. We will finally have a say on our terms of business in Europe. They are perhaps forgetting that it won’t be all smiles and handshakes. We have 950 years of history that will be raked over, brought up, and may well be used against us. This will not be a quick squiggle of a Mont Blanc pen on parchment in some grand hall. Troubled President, Francois Hollande of France immediately hinted at damaging changes France may make to border controls. If British lorry drivers feel frustrated by striking farmers and burning lorries full of lambs now (within the protection of the EU), what will they face if this civilising treaty is ripped up for the Brits? The bottleneck of the channel is our weakest point. Something the wise business people of Britain are well aware of. Add to that the predictable Air Traffic Controllers strikes in summer (we have just suffered from our 47th Strike in the last 8 years) and we begin to form a clear picture of our rather isolated future.

Can we afford the divorce?

Our future will be in the hands of a dubious, and tarnished group of British ministers along with overstretched lawyers shuttling from EU country to EU country trying to preserve as many of our assets as we can like a skewed game of giant Monopoly. And, who will get custody of the golden child? The City of London generates more than 30% of UKPLC’s GDP. Outside the protection of the EU, Germany, France are already having a pop at attracting the golden goose and shrinking the number of eggs it produces. If we don’t retain custody of the country’s best cash generating asset, we will again become an “embittered single parent” after the divorce, contemplating putting on a superhero costume and climbing up the walls of Brussels in a futile and crass protest shouting, “Former EU Fathers for Justice”

Facing a coalition of the weak.

The goodwill and support shown to Britain by the majority of the 10 enlargement states that joined the EU in 2004 that we have enjoyed and required for the past 12 years is beginning to evaporate. Especially as, in their own living memory, the promises of infrastructure grants and bountiful economic progress have begun to disappear, disappoint the local population and put their politicians under pressure. Poland, the striking example of post 2004 success, is now the 7th ranked economy within the EU. As alone most Central European countries are virtually insignificant, they still relish being part of one of the largest trading blocks in the world. As slighted states, sitting across the table from us surrounded by “divorce” lawyers, the energy and relationship will shift. They have got what they want. Why should they now continue to support us so generously? We are on the outside of the tent “looking” in.

Flags and racism

In your culture trainings you teach that culture is less about countries and flags and more about a range of values, beliefs and drivers that subtly influence behaviours and choices. This subtlety will be lost when Brexit becomes a hard reality. We are seeing a return to table thumping Popularism, less sophisticated and more hostile country stereotypes and an increase in racial slurs, prejudice and, inevitably, violence perpetrated upon immigrant populations. And, these include British populations abroad. The Brits in Spain are already treated with disrespect due to their lack of language skills and integration into local society.

Warning Yellow Tape Strips You are about to cross the line

Conclusion

The EU is a mechanism designed to control the behaviour of member countries. Brexit is currently pushing against that reason and control. The Pandora’s box of cultural difference, historical resentment and Britain’s lack of future power will make for a volatile negotiating environment to send our ministers and lawyers into. The British election voter should be fully aware of what cultural consequences they face after the inevitable June Tory election victory aimed at repairing an avoidable Tory mistake.

Part if this blog post was written for Farnham Castle Intercultural Training last year.