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Reconciling different perspectives

Speaking at Open Europe's joint panel debate with the Martens Centre in Brussels, Open Europe Director Henry Newman argues that more innovative and flexible thinking is needed to find a political solution to Brexit.

We are approaching two years since the UK’s Brexit referendum and debate on both sides of the Channel has shown a strange and rather depressing circularity. In the UK we are still arguing over the merits of the decision to leave. Despite much noise, opinion polls broadly show that voters have not changed their minds. The country is still split down the middle, even if a significant majority now expects politicians to just ‘get on with it’. Meanwhile, despite a dip in the pound and the UK growing less than predicted, the economy has held up far more than the vast majority of economic commentators expected.

On the Continent, the UK decision – which after all is to exercise an option to leave which is specifically afforded in EU law – is widely dismissed. Sometimes it’s seen as a fit of xenophobia; or as British exceptionalism – a strange throwback to an (imagined) Britannia ruling the waves, as if Euroscepticism was a uniquely English phenomenon stoked by our tabloid media. Worse still, it’s too often ignored. We regularly hear that Brexit isn’t a key topic in European capitals or in Brussels itself. Perhaps…but to my mind there’s been too little serious consideration of why one of Europe’s most vibrant and innovative countries voted to leave. The UK is one of 28, but in economic size, Brexit is equivalent to 19 smaller members leaving.

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