In his Financial Times article Martin Wolf says “After Brexit Britain won’t be lonely, just lonelier”. As always, he gets to the heart of the matter. Britain remains part of the world. British Government still has to decide the affairs of state for the country. The European Union is still there and Britain needs to have a relationship with it, as it does with every country in the world. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has dealt with more traumatic events than Britain leaving the EU. There are still sixty five million people to be looked after, a National Health Service to be sustained, protection from coronavirus to be secured. Life goes on.
It’s a tough old world, getting tougher. The choices we have to make are not so much little personal choices about family, career, holidays, important as these remain. Today’s choices are dictated by instant worldwide communications, technological options we never dreamt of a generation ago, weaponry so invasive it can kill a man from thousands of miles away and remain anonymous, personal intrusion to reveal our innermost thoughts, pandemics that spread before they are even recognised.
When the waves are high, travel by liner not by dinghy.
Inevitably there will be advantages and disadvantages – to both parties – of leaving the EU. The minutiae of trade agreements will have to be worked out. Travel, living and working arrangements will take a while to settle. Mutual protection arrangements will be complicated, for no separation prevents neighbours coming to each other’s aid in times of trouble. Above all the politeness of friends, however disrupted, will need to be maintained.
If you leave the family, you must still communicate, keep in touch, potentially reconcile.
Globalisation, like the wind, is not an option, not something we can pretend we don’t have to have if we don’t want it. As with the wind we must build our structures to withstand over-dominance by one participant. We can always hold hands in protest, of course. Only, our world population continues to grow beyond our control but our planet doesn’t expand to match the increased needs.
Sharing may seem a soft word for hard times but it is the only real solution.
Sharing doesn’t mean you must be weak. On the contrary, it requires great strength to share fairly and to see that others don’t steal because they are stronger. Individually, we are inevitably less strong than when cooperating, working together, debating how our own needs can be married to the needs of all. We do not always need to agree, just to work out a modus vivendi. A Chinese Reunion Dinner may consist of warring factions of the family but it remains a reunion, a place to come back to, a time to recognise mutual interests.
Anyone who has gone through a major breakup, whether business, personal, commercial, social, knows the feeling of loss and the courage needed to go on, to survive. Anyone who has taken an irrevocable step to separate knows the tears of loss, of failure, of despair. Sometimes the situation can be recovered, if not immediately then later.
At the age of twenty I was working in London and could still vividly remember the war. Along with others, Teddy Hulton, a media mogul, several younger Members of Parliament, including my mentor, Martin Maddan, some people who belonged to ‘Federal Union’, we all worked to bring an end to division, hostility and hatred. Europe House was the first organisation to try to help the countries of Europe work together. It was for cooperation, not dominance. It was for sharing.
Twenty years later Britain joined the European Economic Community. We rejoiced, not triumphally but cooperatively. Today the relationship has been terminated. Britain will seek to rejoin the European Union – or whatever replaces it – in the years ahead. Perhaps not for a generation. But it will happen.
Until then the tears of those of us who worked hard to reunite Europe after WWII will be shed for a while. Then we will carry on.
But we will be lonelier.