Sovereignty and economics

Rupert Gather,
LLB, Group Chief Executive,
United Kingdom

Brexit has now reached its denouement and not even a global pandemic is going to prevent the reality of the UK’s departure from the EU. This is partly driven by legal inevitability, and partly by context: populations across Europe, and world at large, are redefining their relationship with governments, based on their governments’ performance in the virus emergency.

At least until the virus restrictions took hold, the UK had grown faster than the eurozone over the last two-year period, defying apocalyptic predictions on the immediate consequences of Brexit, dubbed ‘Project Fear’ in British media. Regardless of the economics however, it was about people trying to define their place in the modern world and migration for example was simply a symptom of that change. The rapid spread of the pandemic has both illustrated the vulnerability to the consequences of globalization, but also the utility in the sovereign state’s ability to come up with relevant, localized solutions and mobilize their populations  to the defense of their nations in the face of an invisible but deadly threat.   In other words, sovereignty has never been more relevant.

Sovereignty is an abstract concept. True it has a legal structure and often can be born out of physical boundaries defined by an island, river desert or mountain range. But really it is about the effect that is has on the people who live within its jurisdiction. As we are seeing, successful societies are willing to pitch in and help their community in times of threat because they believe in themselves whilst embracing the wider world. The emotional attachment that this engenders, the love of the sovereign nation, is how we define patriotism.

So, although patriotism is an emotional term and sovereignty is a legal term, they are in fact indistinguishable in why people come together and believe in a unifying authority. The search for prosperity is deeply personal, but we can’t agree on what form of government or sovereignty is best placed to deliver it. The EU tries to reflect this with the concept of ‘Pooled Sovereignty’ but the challenge is that something that is pooled is not owned, and something that is not owned is not cared for. This has been demonstrated in the EU’s response to the pandemic where the institutions have acted to provide stimulus to the Euro zone, but failed to deliver the kind of direct and obvious benefit to individuals and families that in turn would inspire greater loyalty.

Whatever the British feel about Europe or any other aspect of globalization, the political idea of ‘Global Britain’ – a rallying cry for Brexit voters – united people in the belief that it that it can deliver well-bring for British families. Brexit was an almost unique opportunity to make a protest vote that simultaneously had a well-argued (although admittedly disputed) economic case to back it up.

Whilst physical and economic protection create the framework for sovereignty, underlying patriotism lies much closer to home. Home is not simply about place, it is also about people, communities. In Finland this is often expressed through poetry such as the Kalevala.

Since the General Election and Boris Johnson’s emphatic victory the narrative has given a renewed sense of unity and purpose and belief that the UK should continue to develop an attractive environment for ambitious investors and maintain its pre-eminent position as a free-trading and business-friendly nation.

There are many reasons why the United Kingdom should prosper but it is the internationally competitive unique characteristics that underpin the country’s global potential. These have been developed over hundreds of years by skill, luck, trial and error:

English as a language is 1,400 years old, and now boasts as many as 500 million speakers with varying degrees of proficiency and there are 50 countries where at least one third of the population speak English, including of course Finland.

Common Law spread across the world via Britain’s historic mercantile and colonial relationships. It is not only in USA, Hong Kong, Australia, and India that versions can be found, but also it forms the basis of international Maritime and Public law and has created the benchmark standard for corporate governance.

The positive international view of British education is founded on the perceived qualities of private secondary schools (confusingly known as ‘Public Schools’) and the prestige of its universities. The culture of independent learning, academic rigour, character development, and the potential for lifetime networks, make Britain the education provider of choice. the UK hosts 4 of the top 10 global universities (including the world no. 1).

The United Kingdom has many friends around the world and none as aligned as Finland with whom we share so much of our global outlook and aspirations. We can share our vision working together to build a prosperous post-pandemic future.

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