Brexit and Risk Management – Is this really the way it should be done?

by Rainer Selling (*) - 07/02/2016

Print Pdf Send Rss

Marco Liera is right saying that the European Union may be called a fragile organization, and I share his view that much too often people’s needs are cared for less than financial interests. This criticism has been repeated again and again and used to be a warning even 40 years ago before the transformation of the European Economic Union into the extended union we have today.

Marco Liera admits that the reasons why people in Britain opted for “Brexit” may be the wrong ones, but on the whole he considers it a positive step in order to prevent further damage.

This way of reasoning is interesting, but not less limited in perspective than that of “self-referential intellectuals” (M.L.).

Risk management – and that is the concern of the alumni of the “Real World Risk Institute” – must never neglect “Pandora’s Box”.

What may come out from Pandora’s box?

Above all we see a strange coalition of people all in favour of smaller European units – just to mention a few: the Russian President, the Front National leader, the Lega Nord leader, the UKIP leader, a man who wants to become US President and others. They all scent a new wind of change and want to make us believe that the EU we know has failed. For them this is a historical fact.

But history is not just “the past”. It is “the usable past”, and when people claim to have history on their side, they make use of the parts that suit them best. It may be Ex-Yugoslavia, the Baltic states, Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia – to name just a few -, and positive or negative judgments on unification or partition depend greatly on the interests of those who judge.

When looking at similarities or recurring features in history, the emphasis should, however, be put on the analysis of the differences. Then – and only – may we really learn from history.

History and social change normally create “winners” and “losers”. Over the last 200 years, the Industrial Revolution, Imperialism, World Wars, new technologies etc. have created and destroyed social groups, nations, jobs etc. – But nobody can honestly claim that the challenges of the 21st century can be solved by the withdrawal of a major country in Europe from common institutions of policy-making.

Who can – on a national level – combat

-          climate change,

-          the discrepancy between those with and without jobs,

-          the problems of people fleeing to Europe,

-          terrorism and war?

Sorry, I do not think that we will have any reason to be grateful to “17 million old, ignorant, poor Brits” (M.L.). We should be angry that there are so many who, like pied pipers, are able to exploit their anger, fear, ignorance, and poverty without solving any problem.

(*) Former Teacher at the Deustche Schule


Thanks Rainer for your remarks.

Just some quick replies:

a)       I really do not believe that Brexit is the solution for the major challenges that you properly mention. I am just saying here that it can reduce the risk of ruin that is embedded in a top-down organization like the EU – in the way it has been built, of course.

b)      The longer we keep whatever Pandora’s Box closed, the more devastating will be its opening.

c)       You are right: we should focus on the differences in history. This is why I believe that we should adjust the EU project to a social and economic scenario that is very different from the one in which it started. For decades after the World War II the downsizing of borders between countries has been a no-brainer, because that was crucial for restoring peace in Europe (that was - by the way - divided between Communist and non-Communist countries). But now, if there are countries that prefer to peacefully leave the union – and rebuild their relationship with their peers on a negotiated, case-by-case basis – that should be accepted as a sign of freedom and not as an act of hostility. As Charles Darwin said, “it is not the most intellectual or the strongest of species that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself”.


Print Pdf Send Rss