I moved to London 12 years ago to start my new life here. I wanted to live in the most international, open country in Europe. In the city, the most European in the whole continent, which welcomes diversity and entrepreneurship. I believed I joined on the fore front of 21st century innovation.
I was persuaded of my choice until the EU referendum approached. Then the public debate unravelled forcing me to review judgement. I did not expect to learn much on the subject having worked on European policy since 2007. On the contrary I am learning a lot but on the hidden psychology of Great Britain. I finally encountered those ghosts that inhabit the island but do not dare coming out before the dark-pitched night.
I found myself like Lord Varys in Game of Thrones: a foreigner witnessing his new home heading towards the abyss led by foolish passions and silly mistakes by the leaders. I’d like to do something but I’ve got little room for action. I’m treated just as a passing guest. This is my testimony.
The debate in the media has revealed a country – at least half of it – which is dangerously unease with the roots of its own success: trapped in the past it’s angry with the EU which identifies with the source of all its evil. But the truth is another. The UK cannot come to terms that its past imperial glory is gone for ever. It has to settle together with all the other nations as a peer; a normal country, not a leader.
I’m surprised that British people want to leave the EU after having campaigned for the Single Market and accession of former Communist countries to the EU to create the largest market in the world. British business has benefited immensely creating multinational companies like Vodafone and increasing trade for big and small business. London has become a global financial hub and the first market to trade Euro denominated products shielding the country from the lashes of the world economic crisis. Why destroying the source of your prosperity?
I’m shocked that the British people are afraid of migration when this country has been built by migrants: from the PM Disraeli, son of a migrant Genoese Jewish, to 33% of British scientists who are foreign-born. Even the Royal family is German originally. Millions of British people live on the continent and, every year, young British have the opportunity to study and work in another country of the EU. Who would vote for les opportunities for herself and the future generations?
I’m confused by the decision of government to give the right to vote to people from Commonwealth countries resident in the UK while EU citizens resident in the UK are barred from it. They all pay taxes and contribute to the wealth of the country, but one group has a right denied to the other one. Is this justice? The last time the British crown denied the right to vote to taxpayers it ended up with the American Revolution.
I’m disconcerted when British politicians claim that this country wants to regain its independence and will do better on its own. They throw disputable forecasts based on nostalgia and fantasies, not facts. Actually they ignore evidence. We live in a globalizing society in which we have to face global challenges like climate change and new pandemics. We need each other and further integration more than ever. To those irresponsible politicians I tell “Get over it and behave like a mature nation and not a rebellious, emotional adolescent”.
Fortunately, this is just half of the story; half of the country. Populism is spreading across Western countries. Boris is ultimately the British version of Donald Trump. There have always been mad kings. Fortunately, they do not last. But while they rule we have to cope with situation and contain nefarious effects.
I still believe that on 23rd June the British people will make the right decision, especially the younger generations who have all to win from an open Britain integrated in the rest of Europe. But this won’t solve any problem. The real challenge will start on 24th June as the European Union requires a radical transformation to fulfil its mission of peace and prosperity in 21st century. Only a new generation can lead the process.
Eventually Lord Varys left Kingslanding together with Tyrion and crossed the Narrow Sea to join the Queen of Dragons. He left behind the Houses of Lannister, Baratheon, Martell, and Stark to wage war on each other, bringing misery to the rest of the country. He will come back when the time has come for a new dawn.
by Filippo Addarii
Co-Managing Director, www.plusvalue.org