Getting into troubled waters

Business needs politicians to be pragmatic. Politicians traditionally strike a balance between pragmatism and principle. Ultimately the public are the arbitrators. When the balance is struck right business has opportunity, the people have work. Simple.

It is natural, based on our geography, that our waters are important to us. Who exploits the fruits of our seas clearly should be a matter in our control and on a point of principle for an island family of nations this is non-negotiable. Simple.

Except it isn’t.

Fish has become the symbolic defining point of our negotiations with the EU. Wrapped up in this symbolism are very complex issues of sovereignty, rule of law, quotas, rights, environment and indeed patriotism.

As a country today we are faced with a choice. On one hand we have ideology which determines we defend an ancient trade cloaked with symbolism of patriotism or we have pragmatism and an opportunity beyond that which we can create just on our own. Here I am talking about the huge digital advancements that are going to revolutionise the globe.

Digital disruption to whole industries is about to go wholesale, encouraged by the mega-disruption that Covid-19 has brought. In the coming months and years, we will see multiple industries going through the uber experience.

This is going to bring many opportunities for those who are best placed to grab them. And it is here that our purists and pragmatists collide.

We have declared that we will walk away from the EU Single Market and not play any role in the development of the EU’s Digital Single Market as this involves compromises on sovereignty and our judiciary that are best symbolised by our protection of our fish.

For this we will surrender barrier free industrial, services and financial market access and facilitated future digital collaboration. The EU must accept us on our terms completely or we walk.

Walking away with no deal was never what was promised to the electorate in 2016 or 2019. If our politicians allow ideology to trump pragmatism the resulting imbalance will not be one that the British public will continue to sign off - once they realise the true economic price and the consequences for their lives.

  • Sajjad Karim was MEP for Lancashire from 2004 to 2019 and was awarded the Parliament Magazine 2019 award for International Trade. He is now CEO of Haider Global, a Brusselsbased international strategic consultancy specialising in EU and government relations
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