images old and new

IMG_1559The image of Britain standing in world wars against German domination has fed Euroscepticism in the UK.  Yes, German Ambassador, Dr Peter Ammon has a good point.

Being 57 years old, I can see the root cause of a degree of Euroscepticism in my generation and the one above me.  Please treat this observation as its intended.  Its not hostile.  There’s no way I’m saying that there is something inherently bad about everyone who watched TV or the movies in the 60s and 70s.

Many of the most wonderful films of my childhood are war stories.  Great drama and daring acts captured our imaginations in grainy black and white.  Often the theme has the undertones of David and Goliath, where huge odds are overcome to escape peril.  Danger on all sides as charismatic British actors portrayed heroic characters winning out.  I’ll just list a few classic movies that come to mind: The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), The Hill (1965), The Great Escape (1963), Ice Cold in Alex (1958) and A Matter of Life and Death (1946).  Love them all.

That was the setting.  The Sunday afternoon TV matinee movie was watched by many.  There wasn’t the proliferation of choice that the media present now.  No wonder many British people see the world through a prism of 20th century history.

Even wider than that, several of my Secondary School teachers revelled in telling stories of their war time experiences.  As children and young adults, we lapped up those stories even if they did generate occasional humour.  We would mock and mimic repeated tales in the manner of Monty Python.  It wasn’t being disrespectful.  It was a sense that the past and the modern world were inevitably in a tense battle for the future.  The future that we were to be a part of.

So, why am I not a Leaver?  I was too young to vote this the first referendum that took us into the Common Market.  That said, as a 15-year-old I was acutely aware of the debate.  In the West Country farming community, where I grew-up, it was a regular topic of conversation.  Local Conservatives were campaigning to stay in Europe.

From the day I left school, there’s been a European context to my further education and work.  I’ve been fortnuate to travel.  If I add it all up, over 40 years, and put the pros and cons on a set of scales they tip soundly in favour of being a part of the European Union.  Those scales tip that way whether I weigh-up facts or emotions.  Both my head and heart are convinced that Brexit is a dead end.  Let’s hope more and more people see it that way this year.

 

Blame game

IMG_1534Anytime something goes badly wrong its human to look around for something or someone to blame.  It often a destructive emotional human response to a grim situation.  However controlled, objective and rational you maybe its remarkably difficult to hold back and think through what’s going on without the temptation to lash out.  The closer a person is to the event in question the stronger the response.  After all its one thing to watch an accident unfold on a smartphone and its quite another to see it impacting people all around you.

When something bad happens, there are a need not only to deal with the essential first response, like putting the fire out or the search and rescue activities but the emotions and feelings too.  Brexit can be described as a car crash in slow motion.   It’s a crash that involves more than 65 million people in Europe.  Its consequences go much wider than that and truly send ripples around the globe.  Advocates of Brexit, naturally don’t see it like that often because of their intense emotional vow to see the crash course through to the bitter end.  Unfortunately, what we are seeing now in the daily news is a welling up of finger pointing blame peppering reports left and right.

I’m astonished to read that the UK Chancellor Philip Hammond is playing the blame game at such an early stage in the new year.  In reports, accusing the others of paranoia, at a time when negotiations between the EU and UK super sensitive, is to invite finger pointing.  Conservative Ministers seem wholly unable to offer reassuring messages and project a positive vision of the future.

There’s no doubt that there’s a growing ground swell of opinion in the UK that wishes there to be a second referendum on the question of EU membership.  That is the fairest and most reasonable way forward in what is a situation that is going badly wrong.  The people should be given a choice based not on theory, outlandish claims and brash polemic shouting but on the hard facts of a EU/UK deal.

The action that is democratic, respectful of the scale of the decision and soundly based on clear alternatives is a referendum on the results of negotiations.  This would be a first referendum that transform and turn around a destructive phase in our history.  If the EU/UK deal was accepted by the electorate then the Country could go forward with some unity.  If the EU/UK deal was rejected our leadership role in Europe will be re-established and the focus return to fixing the NHS, housing people and ensuring opportunity for all.

So, lets’ ditch the blame culture that has engulfed Westminster.  It’s time for great vision.  Its time for clear choices and time to trust the people with the facts.

Bespoke

IMG_1502I keep seeing the word “bespoke” in articles written about Brexit.  It’s the unspoken strategy of the UK Government for a tailored outcome to negotiations that is unique in its advantages and unlike any existing agreements the EU has with third Counties.  On the one point, there’s no doubt the UK’s position is unique.  To have been a big player in the EU for 40 years and then to leave it without a compass or a map is a special situation.

The impression given by the EU side in the negotiations is that the softest possible Brexit is sought but with no special advantages given that would incentivise other Countries taking a similar leap into the unknown.  Often the catch words; win-win are used to suggest that there’s an outcome that would mean the minimum pain around but that comes with a price.

These high-level aspirations are fine and good except that the detail is always in the fine print.  That said, in the world of regulation there’s an awful lot of fine print.  It’s the case that hardly any industry or service is solely domestic, in that all its rules are purely national.  Regionally and globally rules, regulations and standards are in place to ensure that markets work, and failure get fixed.    There’s no council of perfection, some are better than others in achieving their objectives and often changing agreements is a gruelling task.

Back to that word “bespoke”.  In regulatory rulemaking terms, it’s implied that three categories are likely to arise.  One: UK wholly adopts and applies a complete EU rule.  Two: UK creates and applies a regulatory equivalence to an EU rule.  Three: UK creates and applies a disharmonised rule.  For the first two categories, if the minimum of disruption is sought, changes and modifications would need to be synchronised between the UK and EU.

The last case, number three in my list, doesn’t have that much mileage given that many EU rules are designed to comply with higher level international rules.  I’m sure the UK would have the same overriding objective to remain compatible at an international level.

It’s certainly the result that a “bespoke” settlement will not be simpler than the existing situation as a Member State of the EU.  Not only that but the administration of all the above for all the industries and services would be a responsibility of the UK.  Repatriation of these responsibilities is going to need many administrators and technical staff and a sound structure for them to do their work.  Once in place, this is not static, and a continuous process of updating would be needed.

So, if I was to offer career advice for a young graduate in the post-Brexit UK you might guess what it would be.  Yes, there are going to be the need to train up many new people to take on this activity.

New Year or Old?

IMG_1261Can I say anything good about Brexit?  The answer is emphatically “no” but….. Intriguing is the “but”.  Yes, it’s often the last part of the sentence that’s the most interesting.  Bit like learning German.  Having to listen to the whole sentence before you can figure out what’s going on.  Anyway, I digress.  I’d better rephrase that question like so; is there anything positive that supporters of Brexit and I might like?  Well, yes, maybe there is but there are better ways to get to it than Brexit.  We can do without all the jingoistic nationalism that Brexit is wrapped in.

Let’s start with saying that many people recollect history selectively and from time to time with involuntary rose-tinted glasses.  In my early youth, I saw the transition from black and white to colour Television.  To digress again, the TV is called “der Fernseher” in German.   This can be translated just as the English as “far” and “sight”.  Basically, it’s to see an image from a far.

TV was just one major revolution that changed the world.  Aviation was another and it’s in the post-war world that the jet-age was born.  That technology transformation changed everything as the globe effectively shrank.  Travel by air became available to vastly more people.

It maybe rose-tinted thinking but the spirit of innovation and experimentation of the 50s and 60s is worth reflecting upon.  Its particularly apt to reflect as products of that era are now slowly leaving our day-to-day experience.  One of them is the Boeing 747, the Jumbo.  That huge leap of faith, that almost sank its maker, is progressively leaving passenger service.  In its early days, its success was foreseen by only a few but no page of history will fail to remember it as an iconic and successful large aeroplane.  A game changer.

Back to my point.  If Brexit kindles anything other than nostalgia it would be nice if just a bit of a pioneering spirit emerged.  If Brexit doesn’t happen the whole act of throwing everything up in the air can still have a useful cathartic effect.  To say that; things don’t have to be the way they are, and that isn’t all bad.

Here I am promoting radical thinking.  Some contrast to the dull laggards of both the Conservative and Labour parties in Britain.  Clinging to past fantasies is their formula for the future.  In 2018, I hope the public will reject the fleeting comfort of retro-politics and demand more.  Let’s junk the Brexit project as it’s only a sticking plaster.  Let’s work with our partners.  Let’s get back to leading Europe in adventure, creativity and innovation all fit for this Century.   Looking ahead with vision, the possibilities are endless.

Can I say anything good about Brexit?  The answer is emphatically “no” but….. Intriguing is the “but”.  Yes, it’s often the last part of the sentence that’s the most interesting.  Bit like learning German.  Having to listen to the whole sentence before you can figure out what’s going on.  Anyway, I digress.  I’d better rephrase that question like so; is there anything positive that supporters of Brexit and I might like?  Well, yes, maybe there is but there are better ways to get to it than Brexit.  We can do without all the jingoistic nationalism that Brexit is wrapped in.

Let’s start with saying that many people recollect history selectively and from time to time with involuntary rose-tinted glasses.  In my early youth, I saw the transition from black and white to colour Television.  To digress again, the TV is called “der Fernseher” in German.   This can be translated just as the English as “far” and “sight”.  Basically, it’s to see an image from a far.

TV was just one major revolution that changed the world.  Aviation was another and it’s in the post-war world that the jet-age was born.  That technology transformation changed everything as the globe effectively shrank.  Travel by air became available to vastly more people.

It maybe rose-tinted thinking but the spirit of innovation and experimentation of the 50s and 60s is worth reflecting upon.  Its particularly apt to reflect as products of that era are now slowly leaving our day-to-day experience.  One of them is the Boeing 747, the Jumbo.  That huge leap of faith, that almost sank its maker, is progressively leaving passenger service.  In its early days, its success was foreseen by only a few but no page of history will fail to remember it as an iconic and successful large aeroplane.  A game changer.

Back to my point.  If Brexit kindles anything other than nostalgia it would be nice if just a bit of a pioneering spirit emerged.  If Brexit doesn’t happen the whole act of throwing everything up in the air can still have a useful cathartic effect.  To say that; things don’t have to be the way they are, and that isn’t all bad.

Here I am promoting radical thinking.  Some contrast to the dull laggards of both the Conservative and Labour parties in Britain.  Clinging to past fantasies is their formula for the future.  In 2018, I hope the public will reject the fleeting comfort of retro-politics and demand more.  Let’s junk the Brexit project as it’s only a sticking plaster.  Let’s work with our partners.  Let’s get back to leading Europe in adventure, creativity and innovation all fit for this Century.   Looking ahead with vision, the possibilities are endless.

A study in failure

IMG_1194Why do things fail?  Now, in a technical sense, I’ve had quite a long experience finding out.  Accidents, incidents, breakdowns, crashes, catastrophise, mistakes, mishaps, errors, call it what you will – “to err is human” (to forgive divine) so the English idiom goes.  Never will there be a time when we get everything right all the time.  Don’t be misled.  That idiom is not pessimistic, as if to say there’s nothing we can do, in a fatalistic way.

It’s a New Year but the legacy of 2016 and 17 will be with us for some time yet.  Whatever I have read, seen or discussed I remain opposed to Brexit.  It just doesn’t make sense and it’s the wrong solution to our common problems.  However, I’m beginning to think that its failure is inevitable not because of the ardent campaigning of those like me who oppose this exit but because of those trying to implement it.  Ironic isn’t it?  All those loud and boisterous voices are just stirring up the quicksand so that we might sink quicker.

At the heart of the reason why Brexit will fail is the shear lack of competence of those trying to make it happen.  Competence is the ability to do something successfully.  The subject can be divided into three components of knowledge, skills and attitude.  I believe, it’s the Government’s deficiency in all these three that is the reason Brexit will fail as well as it being a flawed idea.

Time and time again the knowledge provided by experts is ignored.  Time and time again a political excuse is used to say why sound advice is side-lined.  So, that’s failure number one.

Next its not too difficult to see the poor skills demonstrated by prominent Ministers in the Brexit camp.  Even when the whiz around the world at great expense the results are nothing more than bluff and prevarication.  So that’s failure number two.

To complete set there’s an attitude problem.  Making a big transformation requires real vision. Someone must articulate a positive vision in a way that is; believable, honest and inclusive.  What we are getting from the Brexiters is the opposite; unbelievable, dishonest and sectarian.  Its born of a narrow view that those that voted Remain are an enemy within.

Today, Leave and Remain supporters want to understand where we are going.  Brexit is doomed.  Its about time to wake up.  A vision is needed that creates unity and not division.  We can transform not only ourselves but Europe too.  Better that be our aim.