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Magazine Issues » July-August 2018

OPINION: Speak out on Brexit

Fiona_RintoulAs I write, its 31⁰C in Glasgow. Seriously. “It’s like being on the continent,” says my dad, an 89 year-old Europhile. Except of course it isn’t. On the continent, countries are clamouring to join the European Union (EU). We sad, soggy Brits, with our strange inability to understand either the basics of geography or the reality of our place in the contemporary world, are leaving.

The second anniversary of the Brexit vote passed in June. I had hoped that by now the country would have come to its senses. It has not. Neither has the British government. Nor, it seems, has it made it any preparations for the road ahead.

I know this is terribly boring for everyone who doesn’t live in what is laughingly called the United Kingdom and I beg your indulgence. You’re fed up with us. I know that. I don’t blame you. I’m fed up with us too. You’ve washed your hands of us. You’re moving on. I don’t blame you for that either. If I could move on, believe me, I would.

Already I’ve waved goodbye to my lovely Czech friends, who used to bring me bottles of Russian champagne. They don’t want to bring their daughter up in a country where their status is unclear. Fair enough. I’ve said cheerio to my charming Norwegian artist friends. They’ve moved to Denmark because they want to live in an EU country even though they don’t come from one. Also fair enough. As the prospect of Brexit draws closer, there has even been chat at home about What To Do. Could we live in Portugal? Or maybe Germany? The only trouble with that is they probably won’t have us. Why would they?

Currently, our most realistic plan involves us getting divorced and asking our German friends to get divorced too. I then marry my friend’s husband and she marries my husband and we all live in Berlin and get divorced and remarry according to the original format at a future point. Short of that, all I can do is plead with everyone I know to do everything they can to try to stop this madness, which is going to be hugely damaging for all of us.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m living in a parallel universe. I listen to pro-Brexit British politicians on the radio talking about the sunny uplands that await us once Brexit happens. Then I speak to business people or fund managers or lawyers and realise all over again what a complete and utter car crash the whole delusional business is and how difficult it is becoming for people to do their jobs. “As a lawyer, it’s my job to advise clients,” the managing partner in a Glasgow law firm told me recently, “but I can’t advise in a vacuum.”

It’s true that the absence of clarity is a problem. But I suspect there is a bigger problem underneath that. Maybe the British government is incompetent. Or maybe there is no clarity, because were there to be clarity, we would all be running down the street screaming. No one knows better than fund industry professionals how damaging Brexit is going to be. All the work that went into creating a single European market for investment products could be undone at a single stroke. The globally recognised Ucits will at best no longer be available to UK-based funds, and at worst will be tarnished by fragmentation.

Gina Miller, the anti-Brexit campaigner and founding partner of the investment management company SCM Direct, has called on asset management professionals to speak out against Brexit. Let’s do it. Let’s not wait until everyone has left, and we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves. In the future, people will ask what we did. No one will want to say they did nothing.

Fiona Rintoul is editorial director at Funds Europe

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