Humanizing Brexit is Critical and Urgent

“Can the peoples of Europe rise to the heights of the soul and of the instinct and spirit of man”?

Politicians Must Exit the Scene

They have done enough damage and created division. The first three months of the application of the Brexit Trade Agreement have been a repetition of the conflictual narrative of the past four years, where politicians have taken an aggressive course and dominated the Brexit process.

Today, we are far from the good intentions of the signature of the Trade Agreement. From the downgrading of the EU representation to the UK to the Astra Zeneca vaccine distribution, there have been many instances that have been confrontational.

In this poisonous context, the interruption of the Astra Zeneca vaccine was considered in the UK as abusive use of the “precautionary principle” of the Trade Agreement, some commentators considering this to be retaliatory. The story might be more simple: the nervousness of the EU Commission on its challenges to distribute vaccines throughout the Union. The countries that took that measure had a genuine concern and immediately responded to the European Medical Authority confirmed its approval of the vaccine. “It appears increasingly clear that the suspensions have as much to do with political considerations as scientific ones,” wrote the New York Times.

A Divided United Kingdom

In 2019, the BBC explained that most of the changes — to the deal agreed by Theresa May with the EU in November 2018 — are to do with the status of the Irish border after Brexit. All sides want to avoid the return of a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit — with checks and infrastructure that could be targeted by paramilitary groups.

Everything was on the table. Once again, the word of the United Kingdom has been questioned in an international treaty, and the European Union will take legal action against the UK over its decision to extend the grace period on food controls between Britain and Northern Ireland, a move Brussels considers “a violation” of the Brexit trade agreement.

On the verge of a possible Scottish Referendum, and a Welsh opposition, England is now insulated in its political opposition to the rest of the United Kingdom. This threatens its unity. According to Statista, as of March 4, 2021, 45 percent of people in Great Britain thought that it was wrong to leave the European Union, compared with 41 percent who thought it was the right decision. In the actual referendum, which took place on June 23, 2016, leave won 51.9 percent of the votes and remain 48.1 percent, after several polls in the run-up to the referendum put remain slightly ahead.

Humanizing Brexit is Critical

People have suffered enough. It is time to put Brexit in the hands of those who are actually implementing it. Until further notice, it is the law of the land. It is critical to abandon the hostile rhetoric and reconcile the people.

Yes, Europeans like the United Kingdom — they share a feeling of fraternity, a common history, and joined values. They want to be able to access the UK as easily as possible — for work, family or simply holiday. Toxic politics have not decreased the interest of UK citizens in discovering the beauty and diversity of the European continent.

This sense of belonging to the same continent cannot be eliminated by political hatred. The attacks from the beginning of 2021 were unilateral and lacked empathy.

Be Fair to the Young Generations

It is clear that the young generations did not support Brexit. The young people want to keep their unique links with European citizens, continue the Erasmus project facilitating intra-EU studies, have access to easy travel, and work in other European countries.

The need for humanization goes beyond this profound feeling of commonality. Europe and the UK share a passion for policies that will reduce the risks of climate change. For example the environmental disaster such as the Iceland volcanoes; the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull caused enormous disruption to air travel across western and northern Europe. The Chernobyl explosion sent radioactive radiations across the continent.

The pressure on Europe from refugees did not stop at the English Channel. It affects the whole continent and it is critical that the EU and the UK coordinate their action with the right policies and humanitarian considerations. The Calais debacle should never be repeated.

More than the previous generation, young generations are concerned about the security of their countries in the face of terrorism, war, and nuclear risks. There is absolutely no risk for the two parties to diverge on that.

It is time to accept reality and let the real actors take a stake in it.

CEO at Galileo Global Advisors and Adjunct professor Columbia Law School.