Brexit’s Biggest Lesson for all of us
More than half the people in Britain who voted to exit the European Union six years ago now think it was a mistake. What is the most important lesson that teaches us? It has nothing to do with an uninformed electorate, although asking your voters to make decisions about the very issues they have delegated to Parliament is clearly daft. The lesson is simpler – and more complicated – than that. It is to understand words, especially jargon words, before jumping to conclusions that they mean something quite different from what was intended.
The word is globalisation. Few reporters bothered to define it, and even fewer of their readers understood what globalisation meant in practice in the first place. With few exceptions, the media used the word to express trade interdependency – buying where raw materials were cheapest, selling where margins were greatest. At the time, shipping was low-cost and the supply chains (shipping routes) were open. There was no thought of war, cold or active. Demand was increasing steadily. Inventories were stable because Covid had yet to frighten consumers into the buying panic that has now reached China.
The concept of interdependent trade appealed on several grounds. Products demanding special raw materials could be made where the essential ingredients were found. Cross-border trade, it was thought, contributed to world peace and harmony – a sensible assumption torn to shreds by Putin. Cheap could find its markets where it was needed; high quality could pivot to the richer countries. The Brexit decision illogically pushed back against all these reasonable ideas. Which is why so many people who knew what they were talking about were aghast at the vote. Apart from war itself I don’t think there has been anything more internationally idiotic done in my lifetime. Just when we were starting to live together we split apart. The similarity with middle-age marriage did not go unnoticed.
Covid, war, fear, even accelerating climate damage, changed all that. Some shipping lane mishaps – like the blocked Suez Canal – many decimated inventories and a need to protect the health of the old contributed to business men shifting from ‘cheapest’ to ‘most reliable’. It was trade that was deglobalising, not the world. Indeed, the ‘world’s globalising pace’ was still increasing. All social media were growing, communications good and bad were whisking their way across the airwaves faster and faster.
How people live determines the status of globalisation. Covid forced a reduction in overseas travel for business and leisure. It increased the demand for video links so that people could try to stay in touch with their families, friends and business partners. Post-Covid, travel – both sorts – has picked up quickly while demand for video links has remained high. Business video links have settled on a relationship-to-relationship compromise of Zoom and f2f which, sensibly, depends on the level of trust needed to complete a transaction. The net-net of which is that globalisation has continued to grow. And so it will, inevitably.
The idea that business de-globalisation is world de-globalisation is rubbish. Business certainly can play a big role in promoting the concept of living together. A desire to learn more about our planet and our neighbours, however far scattered they are, plays an even bigger role. Increasing realisation that life is a long-learn will promote that further.
Observing business and personal clients who seek our help, one thing becomes increasingly obvious in our speeded-up, jargonised-use-of-language world.
It’s a good idea to know what you are talking about before you begin judging it.
It may be the biggest lesson Brexit has taught us.
Do you have a pet hate jargon word or phrase? If so, please tell me or send it to email@example.com. It will add to the Book of Rubbish we are compiling.
6 January 2023