Dear friends in the United Kingdom,
You really did it! I must admit: I did not expect this to happen. I thought “look, they are really smart: pushing their luck, and at the end they will stay and benefit from having played ‘all in’…”
Now you really did it. Brexit. And, of course, you have every right to take that decision. Furthermore, I also know: many people from abroad advised you to vote “remain” and that presumably has influenced the decision to leave. Because you love your freedom and independence. Throughout the entire history: the Empire is the Empire – and the Empire prefers to set the rules and not to follow others. Frankly spoken, somehow and to a certain extend I like that, as “freedom” is something I rate very high on my personal scale of values!
On top of that you are right. In some areas, the European Union is a nightmare: costly, excessive red tape, the need to compromise slows things down and sometimes avoids the best decisions. It is easy to blame all that and to see the advantages of being independent from that political system. So now you are free to define for yourselves, what curves Bananas might have and you can be sure, that no one will ban your nice, traditional toasters, just because they waste energy.
We will miss you in our community. We will miss your experience, the way you decide on the background of your history and obviously your politeness, style and last but for sure not least the “British Humour”, which sometimes makes things easier and helps to focus on what matters.
I am well aware of the fact that there has been an intense discussion in the United Kingdom about the economical consequences of a “leave-decision”. So I assume you thought well enough about it and decided, that the benefits weigh stronger than the risks. And I also assume you considered well enough what conclusions the people in Scotland and/or Northern Ireland may draw – or you simply don’t care. For sure you accept the hassle which each and every divorce creates – it will cost you a few years to sort that out, but it looks like you are convinced that the time and money for this are well invested. Personally I do not share your view on these questions, but that does not matter at all: it is definitely your call…
However, there is one aspect, I really missed in the discussion – and that worries me. Part of the reason, why the United Kingdom grew to such a strong nation is that living on an island has never been a limit. A strong nation, yearning for globalisation in times, in which other peoples were focused on their fairly limited territory and stayed in their development well behind you. You grew faster because you benefited from being a pioneer of globalisation. Not only because of the trading and import-business, but also because of the cultural experience you gained and the global diversity, which helped you to grow faster and more successful than most of the other nations.
Looking at the last two decades, there are not many other nations that benefited stronger from globalisation than you did. Just look at “The City” – it became a key part of your actual wealth and power. In my eyes your decision to leave is a decision, which is strongly against your heritage and against everything that made you successful in history – at least over the last 300 years. Your decision to leave the European Union is a decision against globalisation in stark contrast to a global trend that is accelerating. It is a decision to focus on yourselves, to minimize the influence of others and to reduce the learning which results from the need to work together with others in a close cooperation at eye level. And this is what globalisation is nowadays and even more tomorrow: creating global success together with other cultures in a close cooperation.
To me, but that is only my personal opinion, the decision pro Brexit is not as brave as it looks like at first glance. It feels more like the decision of someone who is afraid. Afraid that he is not in control anymore and prefers to stay or get back in control, even though it might be on a much, much lower level. The world is so complicated outside, much worse than the good old times, so let’s turn the clock back. But “the good old times” are gone. The world is complex. A lot of players. Cooperation with others, alliances and being open and able to compromise is the key for success and will become even more. Generally speaking: times changed and leaving a strong community looks in my eyes like an outdated attitude of the past. The time of lone wolves is over…
I would ask, are you convinced that through leaving the European Union, your country is now better placed and more competitive as an economy when dealing with the remains of Europe, the United States, China and India? Honestly: I do rate the potential and the achievements of the United Kingdom very high. But I doubt that the chances for the UK alone are better than the chances of a combination of various shades of cultures and experiences in many strong economies. Yes, you will get rid of some nasty decisions and rules – but will you have the power to play with the “big boys”? And even if, are you sure, your weight is heavy enough to influence the world stronger than together with the rest of Europe? This is bullish and at least risky – I would not bet my money on that…
Interesting enough, the economic centre of the United Kingdom, London, voted “remain” – those who created and still deliver your actual wealth and power would have preferred to stay. And the young generation also voted “remain” – they thought, that would be the best for their future. But that’s democracy: the majority takes the decision – full stop.
And now, as this decision has been taken, I write that letter – not earlier, as I did not wanted to stand in a line with those, who pushed with their advise for “remain” inadvertently a shift to “leave” (…especially as I know, that “free advise” from a German is sometimes as welcome as a penalty shoot-out…). Anyhow, I write that letter, as I hope, that everybody will act prudent now. Let us try to make the best out of it and let us work closely together against an upcoming renaissance of nationalism, globally and especially in the European countries – this should be for very good reasons buried in a dark corner of our common experience and European history.
Who knows, maybe you even surprise everybody once more and decide to jump a backflip, correct the decision in another poll? There is a window of opportunity – but only for a short period of time… Whatever may happen, believe it or not: I hope your judgement and decision in a few years will be proven to be right and, in case you really leave the European Union, mine as wrong. In case it turns out that way, I will not hesitate to admit that I was wrong.
Let me close this letter with “All the best for you and for all of us” or, to say it in your words: God Save the Queen!
Your European friend, Jörg Ehmer