And so to France…

Exploring France Image
Scanning the European landscape for opportunity…

In Europe recently looking at both projects and for places to live.

When looking for information on business services, buildings and local opportunities, the distinctiveness of the Mairie and its conditioning power in small local communities, was a powerful example of how local democracy, decision making and regard for both history and civic presence can be created in one building, regardless of the size of the community.

History is important in France. Travelling from the city of Arras towards the coast created an opportunity to stop for coffee and a short walk. Just off the main road was a plot of land, about the size of a generous community football field. In it stood over eleven thousand grave markers for French men and women. Individuals who had fallen during The Great War.

Driving on, in a few minutes passing similar places dedicated to nearly forty thousand German souls, others for Indian nationals who died, and for Polish combatants too in another. A jumble of conflicts and immaculately kept memory, dotted across the landscape.

In the village centres and small towns were memorials erected to British Generals, regiments and individual soldiers, all paid for by popular subscription. Concrete evidence that France, lying at the heart of the European idea, must be as mystified as I am about the English notion of ‘leaving Europe’, post-referendum.

Having travelled across France many times in a lifetime, this journey was haunted by the spectre of betrayal. A notion that the lives expended in the creation of the European idea are seen as nought, when the evidence in the rolling landscape offers up the weight of a sacrifice to freedom that we ignore at our peril.

It was in the small, the local and the particular that the best information was to be had about generating new ideas, and not in the grand sweep of international politics and bureaucratic management of economies.

It is in the same context that European communities and businesses will respond to the new ‘English isolationism’.

Philip Rooke, an English entrepreneur, based in Berlin recently wrote in the journal VentureBeat about how the damage to trade and commercial relationships has already begun post-referendum. Although writing from a ‘tech’ development and business operations viewpoint, Rooke’s article illustrates well how the consideration of the local and particular will affect market development and access, regardless of the current mainstream political view in England.

In a clear exposition as a practicing business person in Europe, Rooke argues that he can already ‘…see companies heading to Berlin, Dublin, Amsterdam, and other European hubs‘. That is instead of coming to London or the UK as a whole.

‘Our corporate headquarters in Leipzig in the former East Germany is a microcosm of the benefits of a dynamic inclusive workplace powered by open borders — we have more than 20 nationalities that work together. I am sad that many of the UK voters did not appreciate what this environment adds to the knowledge, skills, and enjoyment of working in a mixed culture’.

Source: http://venturebeat.com/2016/07/30/brexits-damage-to-startups-has-already-begun/         Accessed: 16.08.2016

Rooke makes a tellng point about America, an important market for him. The USA has long been a federation of states, and Brexit he argues, is comparable to California, whose economy is similar in size to the UK, choosing to leave the United States. He argues that this would collapse the California technical marketplace as businesses and people chose to move to other cities in the US. Individuals making a rational choice to foster their interests by disengaging from a spurious political belief in independence, in order to preserve and cultivate their own businesses and careers.

It is a telling argument, but one that relies on understanding the unwritten and undeclared acts of the individual business player. A sort of conflict about the role of enlightened self-interest. In one case philanthropic, in another selfish perhaps. Themes which are never part of the political discourse and populist clamour about, in our case, European unity.

In closing his article Rooke counters the argument, sometimes heard from UK politicians about modelling the future on Norway or Switzerland. In practice, Rooke opines, these two countries have to work much harder, fill in more forms, pay additional taxes and wait longer for responses than mainstream European businesses. Rooke argues that his own multi-national prioritises development strategies away from this sort of market, in order to maintain growth and revenue.

Leave the club, he says and disincentives to growth and development abound, when so many other opportunities, which are border free, are just over the neighbouring horizon. None of these limitations are categorised, prescribed or noted in the current debate on Europe without England.

Although we would never close our Partnership office in Cambridge UK, over the years our projects have become international, even as a micro-business. Whatever the emotional energies or political views of our partners, the Rookeian notion of having a multicultural, cross national presence on mainland Europe makes sense even to us.

It is interesting to think that, in memoriam for all of those individuals, buried in the landscape so recently traversed, it may be that a form of enlightened, social capitalism is, in effect, the last bastion of defence for the European idea in the Twenty First Century.

Another sentence, from my political viewpoint, I never imagined writing.

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This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

Now living in rural Suffolk, I have wondered all my adult life why ordinary people like me, would vote to make the policies of the self-interested Right ascendant? I now think, older as I am, that I have pursued entirely the wrong question, despite voting Labour my entire life. Why on earth cannot collaborative socialism make the Left successfully ascendant? This is the new quest.

Tim is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.

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