Tag Archives: 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum

This Could Be Rotterdam, Or Anywhere: Why Brexit is Meaningless

The period since the 23rd June 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union has been marked by both intense introspection and speculation about the future, but the recent news that Eurostar is to launch direct high-speed rail services between London and Holland – the first train to Amsterdam will depart St Pancras on 4th April 2018 – provides us with the starkest evidence yet that Brexit is a legal construct – not an economic reality.

This is not to deny the likely and profound economic consequences that may stem from the UK’s eventual departure from the EU. These are already all too real, even at a stage when such an event remains, as yet, hypothetical.

However, the new Eurostar routes concretely illustrate a point that both sides of the Brexit debate have pretty much completely missed: namely, that nation states are not now the key organising principle of much contemporary economic activity. As the ‘Tokyo prophet’ and McKinsey doyen Kenichi Ohmae noted is his 1995 classic The End of the Nation State: The Rise of Regional Economies, the nation state unit is in many contexts of little analytical usefulness. Abstract concepts such as ‘the Italian economy’ or ‘the Russian economy’ can serve to obfuscate the fact that Milan and Moscow have far more in common with Munich (and each other) than they do with Messina and Mikhaylovka respectively.

Instead, it makes much more sense to talk of region states, which is precisely the reality that the new links between the United Kingdom’s cosmopolitan capital city and its nearest Dutch counterparts reflects. The Eurostar-connected metropolises of London, Paris and Brussels are already to some degree a shared economic space, and Amsterdam – whose air travel market to and from London is presently at the 1994 level of that between London and Paris – will doubtless soon join this zone.

Moreover, the rise of the region state is not primarily policy-driven. Instead, it is essentially a function of technology and economic opportunity; ceteris paribus, there are brighter prospects in an urban area of millions of consumers and access to world markets than in a provincial town, or even a string of provincial towns.

Naturally, the nation state still has a vital role to play in providing goods and services – particularly public ones – that region states which increasingly fund these same nation states do not yet have the administrative capacity to supply. Indeed, the pressing need for basic economic equity has not gone away, and should be seriously and comprehensively addressed.

But Brexit or no Brexit, the processes of economic globalisation are here to stay, and will in fact only intensify. Attempts to stifle these trends by bureaucratic asphyxiation are beyond misguided – they are ultimately futile.

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Postmodern Capital Flight: European Financial Institutions ‘Narrowing Exposure to Giant Question Mark’!

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Can’t Stand Losing You: EU Migration ‘Falls Through Economic Floor’! #Brexit

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Capital Flight: Why London is Sleepwalking into Obscurity

Regular readers of this blog will by now be more than aware that we at Mediolana harbour a deep sense of attachment towards our city of incorporation. Nevertheless, we are not blind to at least some of its darker realities, and the news that the financial, legal and cultural capital of not just the United Kingdom but arguably Western Europe has suffered biological leakage to the tune of over 80,000 people in a single year does not remotely surprise us.

It is all too easy – and logical – to point the finger at the Brexit ‘decision’ and ‘process’ for this decline. But this allocation of blame is ultimately unsatisfactory, and fails to recognise the deeper, structural problems which have needlessly blighted life in London for far too long; in particular, if the following deficiencies continue to remain unaddressed, one of the most iconic urban areas anywhere in the world could slide into a permanent population recession:

  1. Bad value. The most obvious issue confronting London today is that it offers sensationally awful value for money when to comes to the bare necessities. Specifically, the cost of both public transportation and housing – neither of which are world-class, taken as a whole – is nothing less than an insult to the intelligence. Most people can only take so much of this before they begin to wonder whether there might not be a better way of doing things.
  2. Zero capitalism. Connected to (1), municipal and city-wide authorities alike have lost sight of the need of industry for reasonably-priced land and buildings. As copiously demonstrated in metropolitan units from Berlin to Barcelona, the manufacturing and creative industries of the future can flourish in unlikely locations – as long as they are not smothered by anti-competitive rent-seekers.
  3. No time this time. Compounding it all is a profound sense of time-and-motion sickness: in the insane rush to get to wherever it is they think they are going, Londoners – especially, though not exclusively, those in the professional classes – are readily exchanging quality of life for that extra bit of speed and purported glitz. Friendships, relationships and transcendence have been swapped for an even-faster smartphone. But the messages on the screen are getting increasingly contentless.

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Bur-Exit Latest: King’s College London ‘Clones Itself in Silicon Saxony’!

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#Brexit #Immigration Latest: UK Government Chasing EU #Teachers!

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Testing Times: UK Nationals ‘Queuing Up to Take Arcane Spanish #Exam’!

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