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  • Christian Armbruester

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Why Brexit will be different than what everyone thinks.

Human behaviour has been a mystery long before Jim Morrison told us that people are strange (Doors, 1967). On one hand, we are capable of making the most logical decisions. We follow routines, establish habits, we know what we like, and we learn what works. On the other hand, we can also act utterly irrationally, and we can make different decisions under different circumstances, which in of itself makes things infinitely more unpredictable. For the big decisions, there is also an emotional and chemical response. The body secretes dopamine to set the mood we are in and we use adrenaline to help us move forward.

Which brings us to Brexit and the seemingly never-ending story of the UK finally departing the EU. Leaving aside the merits of the decision to leave in the first place, it is hard to imagine a more convoluted situation. There simply is no way that would make everyone happy. The French want their fish, the City wants access to the European financial markets, the Germans want to sell cars, the Scots want independence, and the Irish are probably already headed towards being united in all but name. Quite evidently, someone, somewhere amongst the many countries, regions, industries, and interest groups, is going to have to accept that some red line will have been crossed by the time the 31st of December comes our way.

Deal or no deal, the relationship between the UK and the EU will continue. Above all else, this is the most difficult to comprehend for those that are advocating the scorched earth tactic in current negotiations. Trade will endure with more than £650bn of goods changing hands every year. We will still take holidays and work with people from both sides of two new autonomous regions, same as it ever was. It is just that now the manner in which we do all of those things will need to change. Think of driving from London to Birmingham, but you are not allowed to drive on the M40, because you know, the Swedes may have helped build the road and we must now destroy all things with European heritage. Would we take the M1 and then the M6, or take the M4 and then head up the M5?

In hindsight, surely everything will make sense, but for now we have to make a choice amongst hundreds and thousands of different routes, issues, and ways of doing things that seemed to have worked fine for more than forty years. The pressure is intense, the constraints impossible to overcome, the emotions are running high and the energy is depleted from trying to negotiate agreements that normally take decades to work out. Not only that, but we are in the middle of a global pandemic, the world is facing the biggest recession in hundreds of years, to say nothing of the huge social and cultural transition that is underway as we move faster into the technology age. Now contemplate the position of those people having to make these decisions that will impact the world for generations to come and history will judge. Do we really think that they will get all of them right? Good luck to us all.


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