The sombre sense of something very much amiss is hard to shake. The Germans seem particularly angry and concerned about Brexit.
How low will Britain go? Will it try to create a cheap, regulation-free competitor on the border, will it try to destroy the EU? The announcement that the UK will leave the EU aviation regulator adds to the anxiety. Do the people who call for “a bonfire of the regulations” associate that with the Max 8 plane crashes?
Regulation is not easy. It doesn’t happen by itself. In an age of globalized meglo-corporations and dark money, it is not easy to protect the rights of the little guy. It takes a concerted effort and there is strength in unity. The UK government will no longer be shouldering its share of this burden. It is walking away from the difficult negotiation and effort that meaningful regulation involves.
Where in the world do citizens have rights these days? Not in China, where dissidents are executed. Not in Russia, an autocracy where state assassins murder journalists and others. Not in the US, which has become a rich man’s playground. The opioid crisis there was caused by a failure to regulate opiate-based medicine, which made some people very rich. Planes fell out of the sky because the weak regulatory environment of the Federal Aviation Administration didn’t uncover issues with the design.
The anger and concern that we are seeing from Germans is understandable. Germany is in a difficult moment. The Hanau Terror Attack, the rise of the extreme right-wing and racist Alternative for Germany party (AfD), Angela Merkel’s imminent departure, all create a sense of insecurity.
I wonder what my late father Arnold Kemp, newspaper editor, journalist, would have had to say? Arnold loved a ‘flyte’ or a robust debate and he did sometimes actually thump his fist down on the table in an argument. Never personal, he was passionate about ideas. One of his table-thumping themes was about the importance of defending the democratic institutions of Germany. He regarded their creations as the finest achievement of the post-war generation of Europeans, of which he was part. Germany lies at the heart of Europe, and if it is vulnerable we are all vulnerable.
The British Conservative party has already taken Britain very far from the centre-ground of European politics. Under David Cameron, they parted company with the centre-right and went to sit with dubious extremists. Since the referendum and the subsequent Brexit takeover of the party, they have moved further into the shadows. What are their values? Where are they headed? What are the implications for all of our futures?