Together we stand, divided we fall
Come on now people, let’s get on the ball and work together
Come on, come on let’s work together, now now people
Because together we will stand, every boy every girl and a man
Before when things go wrong, as they sometimes will
And the road you travel, it stays all uphill
Let’s work together, come on, come on, let’s work together
You know together we will stand, every boy, girl, woman and a man
United we stand divided we fall .
Viewing the world through the prism that living and working in London forces you to, no serious questions would be asked about your mental health if you stated that the UK is a more divided nation than at any time in the last 100 years. The North and South, Young and Old, Left and Right and any combination thereof all appear to have issues with each other which are sadly often stirred by political ambition. These divides are often most manifest when Brexit is discussed and the tangles that all the political parties get into over this subject are sadly a microcosm of British society at this present time. Britain is presented by its detractor’s as a basket case and in a perilously weak position when it comes to negotiating its exit from Europe.
As the UK recovers from a bruising election, terrorism and domestic disasters it’s seems timely to take a step back and look at whether Europe is really as united as it appears? Youth unemployment remains persistently high with levels in Italy, Greece and Spain above 40% and France almost 25%, all much higher than the UK figure of 13% .There remains areas of political risk and upheaval most notably, quelle surprise, in Italy and Greece. Poland and Hungary remain stubbornly opposed to allowing refugees into their countries and openly defy Frau Merkel’s obdurate wishes who herself appears to be starting to regret her open door policy. At the start of the year France was seen as the biggest political threat to European stability. However Macron, the markets favourite, won and with a friendly parliament the question is can he now force through the much needed changes to labour laws and practices in France
In one of his first acts as French President Emmanuel Macron called a special congress by gathering both houses of parliament in the palace of Versailles and attempted, by invoking the spirit of Charles de Gaulle and calling for a “French renaissance”, to reignite France’s glories. In his much criticised official photograph he appears to present himself as the centre of the world and has earned the nickname Jupiter a moniker that King Louis XIV used. His PR, albeit a little fanciful for this Brit, is terrific but the real question has anything really changed and can he cut the mustard with the unions whose labour laws he must reform? Within days of the formation of the new parliament four ministers were forced to resign to avoid various scandals so no real change there and with the unions flexing their muscles it will be a tough call for him to succeed in making France a country of entrepreneurs or any more attractive to international companies than it is now.
If France was the only country facing a tricky political route Europe could be viewed as a positive area but with the Netherlands unable to form a government , Catalonia calling for a referendum on independence , Greece mired in debt and Italian politics as challenging as ever are the silent majority really as content as they appear? Italy has suffered more than the rest of Europe by being the destination of choice for fleeing immigrants and refugees. The social care system is creaking and with comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star part deemed incompetent by a chunk of the Italian electorate and many disappointed with the PD of Matteo Renzi, Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right could be set for an unlikely comeback with all the attendant baggage that would bring.
Immigration into Europe is a political hot potato and stirs enormously strong emotions with many attitudes being born from the horrific experiences of the Second World War. Angela Merkel’s , ill-conceived knee jerk reaction to let everyone in is having and will continue to have a profound effect on European and German life and its impossible not to equate her actions with a sense of Germanic guilt. The cultural, social and economic impact of such a large movement of people will take years to analyse but in the short term the impact on European unity is striking. Austria is closing and fortifying its boarders, Poland and Hungary stand steadfast against allowing any immigrants at all and as a consequence Frau Merkel now wishes to take them to court.
At present there are three times as many European workers resident in the UK than British workers resident in Europe and the EU runs a E120bln trade surplus with the UK which makes one wonder at the hard line stance that Europe is taking. Europe is presented as a bastion of free trade but by demanding that the UK can only have free trade by accepting the right of migrants to settle and claim benefits regardless of their skills makes nonsense of the phrase “Free Trade “. Further evidence of how the presentation of a European unity is a sham comes with the admission, delivered as an obstacle by lead EU negotiator Barnier, that there are 30,000 regulations to be overcome. A community cannot possibly be unified with that number of special regulations and by their very tough stance the leaders of the EU are showing their real fears. Away from the bluster of the politicians Britain and Europe seem equally fragile and the currencies should continue to reflect this and they will mirror the day to day negotiations for the foreseeable future but a point to remember is the worry at the back of the European leader’s minds is not a fear of Britain succeeding but that other countries see the success and follow.