Monday, 18 January 2016


I’ve just been to Lisbon. I was blown away by how clean, organised and sophisticated it was. The sublimely warm and sunny weather helped. This was one of those basket case economies that after 2008 looked like bringing the EU down. Now exports are up, tourism is up and Portugal like Ireland is on a convincing road to recovery and growth.

My love affair with Europe grows. The thought of Brexit seems as insane as contemplating  suicide. What possible sense does resigning from the largest economy and the most exciting culture in the world make? The arguments that the petty bureaucracy of the EU is stifling may be fair but disliking our own HMRC would be a piffling reason for emigrating.

What I love about Europe is that it works. It is so civilised, peaceful and sensible. The Brexit politicians all seem so dreary, aggressive and unambitious. The stay-Ins, for their part, seem inhibited, and too embarrassed to say what they really feel.

Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking fast and slow” nailed the realities of decision making…that it was the intuitive System One part of our brains that called all the shots. It makes little sense to seek a list of whys and why-nots for most of us. We are either “Little Englanders” or we are Europeans/Global citizens in our gut. Maybe I should blame my parents who lived the first 15 years of their marriage in Spain for the way I intuitively lean.

It was in Portugal that I read Jean-Claude Piris (he sounds suspiciously foreign or, worse, French the Brexits might say). He used to be Director General Legal Services EU and has written a book called “If the UK Votes to Leave”.

It’s chilling stuff. Leaving the EU is not like resigning from a job or getting a divorce. It will take years of negotiation and the way the EU works they won’t make it easy for us. Our national aircraft will, as it were, be grounded for a very long time.

Our lawyers will have a field day or rather a field year or five redrafting legislation. Our 2million countrymen living in the EU may have a rather unpleasant time especially as Brexit would be accompanied by Britain taking repressive attitudes to the Eastern Europeans. Trade relations with the EU would not just carry on as normal…everything would slow down. Think it’s a bureaucratic morass now? You just wait.

But there’s all the rest of the world to trade with.

Well it’s actually not that simple. Many of our trade relationships are done through the EU so we’d have to redevelop those from a somewhat weaker position.  It’s no use comparing our position to Canada, Australia or Switzerland. By leaving the EU we’d be fundamentally changing the status quo.
Whichever way Brexit would be a very long and bloody mess.

And like Millwall FC no one would like us. But unlike Millwall I, and hopefully a majority of Britons, would very much care about that.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Portugal sounds lovely, yet it was a repressive dictatorship not so long ago. Of course membership of the EU did not cause this transition, but it surely helped cement democracy in place.
A good friend, a Portuguese Sephardic Jew by background, is planning to become a Portuguese citizen in the event of Brexit. Portugal, like Spain has decided to welcome back the families of Sephardic Jews that they expelled all those centuries ago. My friend says that he would feel uncomfortable traveling with a British passport, post Brexit. Sad that the UK, long a refuge for persecuted Jews, should even consider damaging that reputation.