I’m sitting here on my veranda enjoying a calm German evening watching ‘Ronaldo v Poland’ in the Euro cup and thinking over what has been a slightly crazy week.
I was actually in the US when the result was announced, surrounded by a very international mixture of colleagues. All were internationally travelled, educated and in their 30s-40s. The overwhelming response was one of shock that the UK could do something so silly. I even witnessed a couple of my UK colleagues close to tears and talking about joining militant protest movements, something I would never have imagined.
And yet I feel strangely ambivalent about it all.
I admit that I didn’t vote, but not out laziness. I feel particularly well read and up to date on the issues and have been a recipient of many of the perks EU citizenship brings. Hopping thoughtlessly between London and Frankfurt is particularly useful. The fact is though that I couldn’t decide which was best. The single market and freedom of movement were incredibly useful to all involved until recently. The recent surge might just be a short term blip, but we will never know. Of course what people are really worried about are non-EU migrants bringing Islamification and terrorism to the UK. Brexit really won’t change this though as all sides have accepted but try not to say too loudly. The reality from what I can see though is that the UK is just as likely to be successful outside the EU as in it. And the EU likewise is possibly going to move forward better without the UK always trying to scupper their plans. Or not. Maybe the EU masterminds shot themselves in the foot a while ago.
Anyway, I actually thought the Remain campaign would win as the UK tends to be quite conservative and anti-change. I was shocked that Brexit happened but more shocked when I came back to Frankfurt and found that unlike the group I had just left in the US, the Germans in Frankfurt seem relatively positive and optimistic about the decision. This seems to be based partly on a certain amount of jealousy that the UK are getting out of the EU bureaucratic mess and also because of the attempt to control immigration both of which are very relevant issues in Germany. But the main reason is that many see Frankfurt as the key economic beneficiary from Brexit.
Irrespective of just how good a deal the UK manages to strike, it now seems certain that some finance jobs will move to Frankfurt in order to maintain access to the EU and Euro-zone. It is more a question of how many and at what level. In fact, the local business school (Frankfurt School), already famous in Europe for their finance graduates, is prepping students on potential job opportunities. Frankfurt has just secured the position it always desired: the most important financial centre in the EU.
So, now both the Frankfurter in me and the Brit in me feels rather optimistic about the future. That is unless DEXIT now becomes a reality :-). (Unlikely I know. Hitler ruined that option. Plebiscites are illegal in Germany ever since he abused the process in the war).