500 years ago, Thomas More was part of a delegation revising an Anglo-Flemish commercial treaty, residing in Bruges. After his return to London, he completed his Utopia and published it at Leuven in December 1516. Utopia was written for the humanists in Europe and an elite group of public officials. More’s Utopia is a pagan communist city-state in which the institutions and policies are entirely governed by reason.
Today I allow myself some utopian thinking. I am imagining a United Europe in which institutions and policies are entirely governed by reason. I am imagining a Europe where there no longer us and them, whether ‘us’ is a nationality or religious conviction and ‘them’ is an investment banker or Syrian refugee. A Europe no longer shaping its future on illusions of the past, a Europe embracing change armed with values and laws. Values like freedom of thought and expression, gender equality, a democratic secular state ruled by law, etc. A union where all Europeans, by birth or immigration, integrate into a new political, economic, social and cultural reality.
Which brings me to the Brexit discussion. Reason tells me Europe would be better off without the UK. Since 1973, the UK has been a reluctant member. Margaret then, Boris now, represent the uneasy thought that Brussels is gnawing at absolute British sovereignty. Every opportunity to block further integration is seized with vigor and pride. It has stalled the EU for decades. It has also made the EU weak where it needs to be strong: political integration, especially in foreign policy, and economic and social integration, to create an economic bloc second to none. The British tend to be that distant family member we all have, who turns up at a wedding party just to spoil it.
The British mindset is governed by fear. Fear of losing control, fear of losing their way of life, fear of losing a sovereignty that in theory exists on paper but is in practice long gone through the reality of the global village. London might be the most diverse place on earth, but still, 25 miles out, the British are caught in the illusion of the good old days, when Britannia ruled the waves. Clearly the British feel like Julius Caesar who had rather been first in a village than second in Rome. Reason says: let them have the village while we’ll building Rome. Let them kill Thomas More twice.
Everybody working with leadership teams knows how important it is to align all members of the team to the same business strategy and execution. If you don’t agree with where the bus is going, you get off before you’re asked to. It is no different in team sports. It’s no different in the EU.
My heart, hopes that the British will just like Julius Caesar, see the village for what it truly is. I hope the British will cast the die and cross their Rubicon to be the first in Rome. I know today Brussels lacks the glory of Rome but not its power.
Reason however tells me to go crazy. I propose the EU holds a referendum under which conditions we allow the UK and for that matter any country on the EU bus or not.