You can’t sit in a London cab, go to the pub, or sit down at a posh dinner party these days without the dreaded Brexit coming up.
I’m an Aussie, with a non-British EU passport, so it’s none of my business really what the UK decides in June. But as a businessman, with investments and staff on virtually every continent in the world, I’m interested in people’s views on the matter.
My pal James (the English spook) is obsessed by the new EU rules on toasters. Apparently the French and the Germans have conspired to reduce the power of toasters so we’ll all be chewing warm soggy bread when they have their way. That nails that then!
My wife is English and rather conservative in her thinking. She thinks the UK should get out. For her it’s about national pride, and sovereignty. Brits making laws for Brits, democratically, and by elected politicians. I can see her point. I’m sure chaps like Mandelson and Kinnock are perfectly decent fellas, and were capable Eurocrats – but these people initiate 60% of UK laws. Weren’t they actually kicked out by the electorate? Not very democratic is it really?
Talk to any cab driver, or any ‘man on the street’, and you’ll hear serious worries about the refugee crisis and uncontrolled borders. People, whatever their original nationality, are worried about terrorism, crime, and loss of jobs. Are the politicians listening to these people?
The media and politicians fixate on the same old small issues. It’s boring and no wonder the British people don’t believe a word the politicians are saying. Jobs, national security, and British identity are the things that the average Joe and Jill are worried about
And ‘political correctness’ doesn’t help. People and politicians are scared to make honest statements for fear of reprisals. Get some wellie folks! The real issues need to be discussed if this Brexit vote is going to mean anything.
There are some pretty powerful arguments about the economy and trade. As a businessman I can see why many business leaders would prefer to stay in. Trade deals are important to exporters and importers, and they do take a long time to negotiate. Just today I heard that the CFOs of the top 100 companies in the UK are discussing whether to issue a collective view. They’ll be voting to stay in.
But what amazes me in this whole discussion isn’t the crap arguments, or the ‘Project Fear’ campaign strategy to scare people – it’s the lack of imagination and big ideas.
Growing up in Brisbane in the 70’s we were in secret awe of our Pommie cousins. Sure, our great-great-grandparents had traded in shitty weather and dreary prospects for the Great Aussie Dream. But we always admired the Queen and Britain’s great political institutions. British Parliament the mother of democracy.
We admired the innovation and energy of British industry, from the world’s manufacturing hub to her modern day economy with the global centre of finance, media, and innovation. And even her culture, humour, and way of life. No wonder the great Barry Humphries and Clive James, made a beeline for London back in the 60’s.
But where is the swagger now? Where is the self confidence? Where is the political imagination?
I don’t see it right now.
To me this Brexit debate epitomises the problem. In a different age we’d have heard big ideas, from big people, about real issues. There would have been some bold suggestions about new trading blocs with China, or India, or Africa. And what about the Commonwealth? The English speaking global bloc that shares many British values, many the same legal system, institutions and language. Any discussion about that? Didn’t think so.
I’m a businessman. My job is to take risks. Without risk there’s no reward. So come on you Poms – a tip from your pal Dave.
Stop fannying about moaning about soggy toast or the way the EU changed your pork sausages. It’s time to raise your game and it’s up to you voters.
If a nation ever needed big ideas, bold thinking, and political imaginations, it’s right here right now. Where are the real visionaries?
Britain once led the world with the greatest empire on earth. Where’s the debate about the greatest trade block in the world – the enduring and almighty British Commonwealth?
It’s time to show the world what the the planet’s 5th largest economy is about.
And it’s time to work out what you want the world to look like when it’s our children’s turn to inherit the planet.
So I don’t mind that for the next three months we’ll hear about little else. And I hope if you’re a Brit you’ll do yourself a favour and vote when the time comes. This is a seriously high stakes game.