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.

 

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Cultural Nightmare at Christmas – Kafka was a Banker

A relocation to the UK that could not have gone much worse….

It was the last intercultural relocation training before Christmas. For Mary and Sam, a lovely couple from Russia and India respectively. They picked me up from an out-of-town station and drove me back to their nice house. As I sipped my coffee and bit into a Swiss chocolate, their unbelievable story of British bureaucracy and service stupidity unfolded – in the 13 years I’ve been in this job, this had to be the worst case of intercultural cock-up I have witnessed.

unhappy business woman showing crumpled contract

British banks seem to operated by unfriendly algorithms

The bank that likes to say “No!”

Working for a global company Mary, had an American bank account in the heart of Moscow that provided for all her domestic and international business needs. We she heard of her relocation to England her first move was to telephone them and ask to set up a similar account in the UK. 1. No one picked up the phone. 2. Undeterred, Mary sent a series of e-mails that met with a similarly silent response. “Oh well”, thought Mary, this is an opportunity to open up a British bank account. She eventually found that this global bank had no high street operations in the UK.

On arriving in London, Mary and her husband moved into a hotel. They should have moved directly into the house and see 7. From a hotel she called a famous high-street bank and enquired about the protocol for setting up a UK bank account. She was given a list of documents to produce and an appointment was set up. Mary knew that she was moving out of London to deepest Hampshire and so wished to set up a bank account in the larger local town, the one nearest to the village where she wished to live. She had taken time off from work to attend the bank meeting. 3. When she turned up at the bank she was told (only then) that setting up a Hampshire bank account would not be possible, because, as of that moment, she was not actually living in the county. Mary was upset, because she could have been told this over the telephone and she had taken time off from work to attend the meeting, where she was promised, the procedure was pretty simple and would take no more than 25 minutes.

Mary delayed opening a bank account until she had secured a nice property. More later. 4. Having moved into the property, Mary set up a bank meeting in the local large town. She went there secure in the knowledge that she was living in the county. It was early days and she had yet to receive any sort of Bill. Again she took, a half day’s holiday to visit the bank. There she was told, that without a utility bill in her name for her Hampshire residents it would not be possible to open at the bank account. With an increasing level of frustration, Mary left, went home, and telephoned one of the utility providers and asked them to furnish out with a bill. 5. A couple of days later Mary set up ANOTHER appointment and proudly produced the said utility bill. This time the bank clerk enquired about her date of arrival and her other activities regarding registering to live and work and be paid money in the UK. Because she had been in the UK for less than one year, she was told she did not have a valid credit history and therefore, without sponsorship from her company, it would not be possible to open a bank account. Barely containing her anger, Mary enquired why had it taken so long to announce this important fact. No meaningful answer was forthcoming. Mary approached her Human Resources department and asked for a sponsorship letter that would compensate for her lack of credit history. An HR department employee duly drafted a letter and gave it to Mary. Mary photocopied the letter and set up another appointment. 6. A disappointed Mary was told that 2 things were wrong with the letter. One, it was a black-and-white photocopy and not a colour copy. Two, it had been signed “on behalf” or somebody and not with a simple name. Mary then let loose with her feelings of anger, rage and disappointment as she retold the Kafkaesque nightmare to the surprised bank assistant.

Mary and her husband had been allowed a looksee visit to become familiar with the UK and to identify and close a deal to secure a house to live in. They had been allocated a relocation agent who would select a number of properties for them to see. The visit was arranged in plenty of time for them to relocate smoothly from their old town to their chosen house in UK. 7. When they met the relocation agent, she seemed somewhat lacking in charm and communicated with an air of pessimism and scarcity about the cost and choice of property on offer in the area. The first house Mary and her husband saw was horrible. Small, dark, poorly located and at what seemed a seriously overinflated price. The 2nd 3rd and 4th properties were better but in no way adequate. With growing frustration they sensed that the relocation agent was not telling the entire story. As they drove in her car to the final property, the agent extolled the virtues of their “last chance” location as if it would be the answer to their prayers. It wasn’t. They had taken time out of their busy schedules to come all the way to the UK to waste a day looking at a substandard portfolio of properties that were very much on the B list.

  1. Mary and her husband decided to take care of their property search themselves. Using social media and various agencies that identified a number of much better places. Again many properties seem to be somewhat overpriced when compared with their research figures gained from their investigation via social media. They understood that it was normal practice to under quote and see if the landlord would accept the request. They put in a number of low offers for property, and then had to wait for months to get a response. Each real estate agent told them the same thing – they should only put one offer in at a time. They said that if they put in more than one offer, they would not be taken seriously. What seemed to be happening though was that the landlords were shopping around for better offers. In some cases they did not hear back for a number of months. This must have been very expensive for the landlords. Eventually, after 2 months, the winning landlord came back accepting a reasonable offer and the deal was closed. Mary using various social media websites found a lot of these landlords had wasted months and eventually accepted offers even lower than the one Mary had offered.

Physician heal thyself

  1. Mary has a chronic but not serious medical condition that requires medication. When she had left her previous apartment, she had packed her pills in her suitcase to be placed on a lorry and taken to England. The French company had told her the lorry would arrive in no more than 48 hours. As a backup, Mary had anticipated the chance of the delay and so had a Moscow doctor write out a prescription in English that she could use in the UK. The lorry became stuck in a French port backlog. Time for plan B. 10. Mary knew that she had to register at a local health centre to gain access to the NHS and to see a General Practitioner. When she heard of the freight delay, she telephoned the health centre to request a 5 minute appointment to obtain a prescription for the medication she was already taking written on green British prescription paper so that she could take you to a chemist and continue taking her pills. The GP’s receptionist, told her, that because this was not an emergency, she can only get an appointment in 7 days time. Mary was aware that the emergency service was in a different place and that the GP surgery was the first port of call for any medical condition. She was sure that the medicine would turn up in just a couple more days and therefore did not make the appointment. The slightly overbearing GP’s receptionist warned her that she should take the appointment for 7 days time as if she did not take it now and call back later her overall delay could be more like 10 or 14 days. Mary left it anyway.

The French port delay continued, and the medicines did not arrive. Mary phoned back the receptionist, and made an appointment, it was for 10 days after the first phone call. The receptionist had indeed been right in her pessimistic prediction. 11. The day of the GP appointment came, and Mary were driven in some pain and discomfort to the surgery. She went into the small doctors office and explained his scenario. Rather than simply write a prescription, the doctor, with no notes to refer to, said that her stomach pain could be anything, and that she should go away, wait, and come back in a week’s time. He said that if the pain continued he would write her a prescription for analgesics. Mary’s mind began to spin at the ridiculous nature of the British system of banking and face-to-face healthcare.

She had experienced better in both Russia and India.

A simple assumption

  1. Mary and Sam are intrepid travellers and, despite experiencing bureaucratic attacks of incompetence, they thought they’d venture to Edinburgh for a nice weekend. Looking on the Internet they found reasonably priced tickets and elected to start their journey from a “London” airport. Here began their last pre-Christmas disaster. Coming from the West side of London, they imagined that Stanstead airport would be close. For one reason or another, they set off 30 minutes late. Then, they missed a vital turning just a few kilometres before the airport. This last mistake meant a detour of 30 km, by which time they had missed the flight. There was little else to do but to drive back home. The irony of this day was not lost on them. They had spent 10 or 11 hours driving. In that time – they could have reached Scotland by car!

Tragically, all of these incidents that happen before the relocation day. I met with this lovely couple, experienced their warm personalities, their generous actions as hosts and saw their mild disposition. There followed a therapeutic and laughter filled cultural session on how the strange, secret and perplexing world of UK bureaucracy actually works.

Can you guess some of the answers?

Banks – the days when sophisticated career professionals took care of banking relationships are long gone. I have had retail bank staff at my local branch, talk about their minimum wage conditions, the all-powerful computer algorithm making all the decisions combined with their lack of autonomy or authority to make discreet real world decisions and the fact that the high street bank is no longer the human and sensible place what it once was. ADVICE – at the first sign of Franz Kafka, write-down contemporaneous notes in your Moleskine, and find the number and address of the banking ombudsman. A letter threatened or sent here works wonders, and normally generates a grovelling apology and efficient solution to your outstanding issues. Don’t be part of the system – Get ahead of it.

GP Surgery – the receptionist in the story, had been told to turn away patients. She had incorrectly used the distinction between an emergency and non-emergency to do this. She was wrong. Your job as a newcomer to the UK is to expect various barriers to put in your way. These you must overcome with a display of assertive power. Think of it as a video game or medieval quest. The first obstacle as a receptionist who will say, “go away.” ADVICE – become a broken record repeating your, “I am ill and I must see the doctor.” After 2 or 4 repetitions, the receptionist will cave in and grant you an appointment. If it is too long to wait, threaten to call 999. This normally changes her attitude.

GP – again British doctors are told to under prescribed and under-diagnose. In a 5 to 7 min cursory verbal exchange, they will often wrap up this inconclusive session with, “You seem to be fine. If it still hurts comeback in 2 days/a week/a month.” ADVICE – again it’s time to find your personal power and issue the broken record statement, “I feel really ill and wish to see a hospital consultant.” Again, 2 or 4 repetitions of this should see a change in attitude. You will either get a deeper diagnosis, a useful prescription or be referred to a medical expert.

London Airports – there are not 5 London airports! There are 2 airports “in” town. London airport – a tiny and fragile landing strip surrounded by water near Canary Wharf in the East End of London. It is wonderful, cosy and cheap but vulnerable to wind, fog and rain. Many flights are delayed or cancelled. Heathrow airport is the nearest thing to a proper London airport, though technically it is only just within the M25. Stanstead airport should require a passport to get to! It is nearer Cambridge and can take many many hours in busy traffic. Luton airport cannot be reached directly by train. We forgive Gatwick airport for pretending to be in London, as the train service is very efficient and for a lot of people in South and Central London, it can work out as the nearest convenient airport location to begin your holiday. If anyone ever tells you Southend airport is a London airport – punch them in the face. They are lying and part of a Government conspiracy 😉

 

Happy Christmas.

P.S. Mary and Sam felt reassured by the cultural briefing on the true workings of the UK. They realized that they were not stupid or wrong. Simply that they were too nice for the system. We wish them well and we wish you well on your next trip to the UK.