With apologies to my non UK readers, I have to dedicate this weeks post to why I will be voting “Remain” in the UK/EU membership referendum, and the leadership case for it.
Here is why I believe it is so critically important to remain part of the EU.
As I have written many times, leadership has a disproportionate effect on culture. An inspiring and warm leader will create an inspiring and warm culture. A divisive and aggressive leader will create a divisive and aggressive culture.
Even before the leaders of the Leave campaign showed just how decisive and aggressive they are I felt strongly about being in Europe. I have felt both European and British since I had the joy of working at Razorfish in the late 90’s. Our London office was a glorious smorgasbord of nationalities and cultures who came together to invent and create.
As head of strategy for our European offices I travelled to and worked with offices all over Europe. I have a Danish wife. We took advantage of “free movement” to go and live and work and pay taxes in Spain for 6 years. Through my consulting I have worked in most European countries and always valued both the differences and the similarities.
My deeply held values include:
- Collaboration and participation not isolation
- Openness and exploration not control
- Sharing and community not selfishness
- Diversity and inclusion not monoculture or exclusion
- Creativity and forward thinking not nostalgia and stasis
The former are values I share with the European Union, the later are values expressed all too frequently by the Leave campaign.
Of course the EU is a compromise – how would it not be? – but it is a compromise that has hugely advanced living standards, reduced conflict and enhanced security for millions of people over the last 50 years.
A United Kingdom lead by the ideals and values expressed by the Leave campaign would, be a lot less united. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland would be forced to decide whether to stay with a little England or with Europe. A little England itself riven by the divisive language of it’s leaders.
Perhaps the biggest catalyst of this whole sorry experience has been the controversy around immigration and the confluence of EU freedom of movement based immigration with refugees and other immigrants escaping conflicts (that we helped to create in many cases) in Syria, Libya and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.
What is seldom discussed in any context is the extent to which the UK, along with many other countries in Europe desperately need immigration to compensate for our ageing population and low birthrates. Typical estimates are that the UK needs net immigration of around 150 to 200,000 people per year to maintain our economy and population levels. Germany needs more like 700,000. See this Daily Telegraph article from before the whole referendum debate distorted the narrative.
Overpopulation may seem like a problem, but in many ways it is a more attractive problem than de-population. We have had depopulation in parts of the UK before. Spain and Italy have severe rural depopulation and Japan has severe national depopulation. See this editorial from the Japan Times.
The anti-migration narrative has been manufactured and created. The British people are not fundamentally anti-migrant. Britain is and has been a cultural melting pot for at least the last 2000 years. Most of us have some immigrant ancestry within just a few generations (Watch Boris Johnson on Who do you think you are?). My great grandfather was a Dutch Jew who came to London in the 1920’s, every member of his family who didn’t was murdered in the Holocaust.
The anti-migrant narrative has been invented and whipped up by political leaders in the UK. It is a simple trick to pull and the same one that Donald Trump has used in the US. The playbook goes like this:
- Take a disgruntled population
- Tell them that all of their problems are the fault of an “outsider” group
- Tell them that if that outsider group were excluded everything would be OK
- Take power on the back of this “strategy”
- Execute your real agenda of enrichment of your crony elite at the expense of everyone else, especially the outsider group.
If this sounds familiar to students of history, it’s because it is. Status hungry rulers and despots have done it over and over again.
The anti-migrant narrative is a pure invention to exploit people’s far more genuine grievances with the failings of government, particularly since 9/11. And cutting immigration will do nothing at all to resolve those concerns. Nothing at all!
Additionally Brexit will hand power to a politics which is regressive on almost every aspect of social and environmental progress that has been made since 1945. The Britain they appear to want back is poorer, harsher and less safe in almost every way.
I will be voting Remain because I want to see Europe collaborating to make the world a better and safer place for everyone and I want a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to play an inspiring and leading part in it.
Let’s all be part of making that happen and for those of us who are eligible let’s start by voting to Remain with the European Union on Thursday.