Brexit Thoughts

Posted on Wed 22 June 2016 in travel

The Choudhury family is happy to now be in Spain now after six weeks in London. Our visit was marked by a few trips to the doctor (highly recommended, we should get single player in the US!), unfamiliar weather (so much rain!) and truly terrible food (I can only assume Britain's empire building efforts were an effort to find better food).

There was also some talk about Britain leaving the EU while we were there. There really isn't much I can add to the debate, apart from observing that it is not necessarily Far Right racists driving the push to leave the Union. I had several surprising conversations with highly educated, otherwise liberal people who pointed out that as long as the immigration quota is taken up by low-skilled immigrants from less well-off parts of Europe, it makes it very difficult to make room for the more desirable (read: educated, skilled) kind of immigrant. Fair enough: self determination is a big part of being a democracy.

That said, Britain is (and has been for most of the last six hundred years) a trading nation, and leaving the EU would impose horrendous losses upon their society. I am reminded of Captain van Hoek's harrangue to his crew before they sailed from Manilla to Acapulco in Neal Stephenson's The Confusion:

Of all the enterprises to which a man can devote his energies [...] long-distance trade is the most profitable. It is what every Jew, Puritan, Dutchman, Huguenot, Armenian, and Banyan aspires to it is what built the Navies and palaces of Europe, the Court of the Great Mogul in Shahjahanabad, and many other prodigies besides. And yet in the world of trade, it is common knowledge that no circuit, ¬Ěnot the slave trade of the Caribbean, not the spice trade of the Indies, exceeds the Manila-to-Acapulco run in sheer profit. The wealthiest Banyans in Surat and bankers in Genoa lay their perfumed heads on silken pillows at night, and dream of sending a few bales of cargo across the Pacific on the Manila Galleon. Even with all the dangers, and the swingeing duty that must be shelled out to the Viceroy, the profits never fall below four hundred percent. That city is founded upon such dreams, Jack. We are all going to go there now."

Instead of bales of silk and baskets of spices, Britain now deals in credit default swaps and cloud computing. But the basic message remains the same: the city on the hill -- London at close, Great Britain at large -- is founded on trade. Will the British really turn their backs on such fabulous wealth to keep out a few people from Europe looking to partake in the fountains of wealth created by British trading acumen?

I guess we will find out tomorrow.