JOE GILL: Staying together is the best way to keep Europe out of the rough

Last weekend’s Ryder Cup golf tournament was a notable example of the good that can transpire from a Europe that acts as a team and which is unified, writes Joe Gill.

Contrast the positives of that experience with the shambles that is popping out of the Brexit debate and the various nationalist agendas of individual countries.

As incredible as it may sound, there are politicians in Britain bringing up old war stories to describe Europe in 2018. The Soviets were cited in a speech by the UK’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, this week. 

There are various quasi racist overtones in commentary emanating from conventional, but right-wing media outlets in Europe.

One Brexit headbanger is waffling on about how there is not enough gratitude in continental Europe for the sacrifices made in the 1940s.

For a time, I worked in a job managing teams in nine European capitals. They were proud natives of their respective countries. 

If you scratched the surface, though, long-felt grudges and resentments appeared.

The Spanish had plenty of opinions about the British. The Danes and Germans were not easy bedfellows. The Dutch had strong views on a variety of European countries.

The Italians had interesting opinions about the French. Everyone had an opinion of the Swiss. And then there were the Irish.

Being from Ireland gave me an odd, but unique, vantage point in these cross currents.

Ireland is judged as a nation that never engaged in imperialism, has been respectful of all nations, and has a sticky and stubborn relationship with neutrality and peacekeeping.

In an era when those two attributes are given short shift by some large world powers, Irishness brings an independence that is valued by many.

It enabled me to get agendas completed, and actions taken, which would have encountered severe resistance, or downright opposition, if I had been representing another nation.

These underlying sensitivities have been carefully and diplomatically managed through the creation of the EU. 

The image of Spanish, Danish, Irish, Swedish, Italian, and English players providing a spirit of teamwork, trust and co-operation, last weekend in the Ryder Cup, made a powerful point. Together, Europe is stronger.

Embracing the best of British, with the best of continental Europe and Ireland, provides a world-beating formula. 

There are skills and networks across Europe which, when put into gear collaboratively, can outperform anyone in any field.

Just contrast a joined-up Europe, competing with China and the US, with individual nations in Europe pursuing their own agendas. Can we really imagine France as a standalone country on the world stage?

Faced with the economic and political power resurgent in America, is Germany, on its own, truly able to stand its corner?

And, as for Britain, what exactly does that nation have which justifies the headlong quest for supposed independence that Brexiteers demand?

The Ryder Cup analogy is also of relevance for Ireland. As in other areas, we have over-indexed success in the golf world over the past decade.

Relative to our population, the achievements of Harrington, McDowell, McIlroy, McGinley and Clarke have been remarkable. 

The opportunity to replicate that in other parts of Irish life is real, especially in a world stressed by a reversion to nativism.

Maintaining an open door for investment, trade, free speech, and civilised living, in a community largely free of gun violence, can best serve not only the interests of Ireland, but of Europe as a whole, amid the looming challenges posed by nationalism.

In the 1950s, Ireland flirted with the notions of border controls and barriers to trade. 

It was an utter disaster and any impulse to consider choices that bring us back down that rabbit hole should be fiercely resisted. 

Europe 1 Nationalism 0.

Joe Gill is director of corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.


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