Whatever you (don’t) want

    Ian McMaster
    Von Ian McMaster


    After two and half years of planning their romantic trip to Brussels, a British couple arrives in the city. In the evening, they to head to a placezu einem Ort gehenhead to the restaurant in their hotel. The waiter arrives at their table and asks them what they would like.

    “Well, as a starter, we don’t want the prawn cocktailKrabbencocktailprawn cocktail and the smoked salmonRäucherlachssmoked salmon. For the main course, I don’t want the lambLammlamb and he doesn’t want the beef. And afterwards, neither of us want the ice cream or the sorbet.” The waiter leaves bemusedverwirrt, ratlosbemused.

    The next morning, the couple appears in the restaurant again. The same waiter arrives at their table. “Good morning, I hope you slept well. Would you like a full English Brexit — I mean, breakfast — or a continental one?” The couple replies, “yes”. The waiter leaves even more bemused.

    Most continental Europeans are as to be bewildered by sth.über etw. verwundert sein, etw. nicht verstehen könnenbewildered by the UK’s approachHerangehensweiseapproach to Brexit as the waiter is to the couple’s approach to ordering food. “We keep hearing what you don’t want, but we still have no clear idea of what you do want. You voted to leave but do you really want to go or do you want to stay? And if  you do you want to go, do you want to stay close friends or not?”

    A second referendum — or ‘people’s vote’ — could be the only solution.

    As a British citizen who has lived in Germany for 30 years and now also has German citizenshipStaatsangehörigkeitcitizenship, I can quite understand the frustration of many Europeans. But the British simply don’t agree on what to do. Different groups within British society — and the British government and British parliament — want different things (and don’t want other different things).

    For a forthcomingbevorstehendforthcoming article about Britain, to appear in Business Spotlight 2/2019 (to be on saleim Handel seinon sale from 20 February), Paul Wheatley spoke to professor Peter Franklin at the Konstanz University of Applied SciencesFachhochschuleUniversity of Applied Sciences. Franklin says that the British culture is one that has a higher tolerance for uncertainty than the German culture. And this could help to explain why Britain is prepared to to contemplate sth.über etw. nachdenkencontemplate risks relating to the outcomeErgebnisoutcome of Brexit that would be unthinkable for many Germans.

    Parliament’s resoundingüberwältigendresounding rejectionAblehnungrejection on Tuesday evening of the withdrawal dealhier: Austrittsvertragwithdrawal deal to negotiate sth.etw. aus-, verhandelnnegotiated between Theresa May and the EU has increased the uncertainty. Yet, fundamentally, there remain only three options: leaving the EU without a negotiated deal (the “no-deal Brexit”), approval (of)Zustimmung (zu)approval of a modified Brexit deal, and to call sth. offetw. abblasencalling Brexit off completely.

    The latter option could take place as a result of a unilateraleinseitigunilateral decision by the British parliament to stop the two-year “Article 50” withdrawal process. That is still highly unlikely. Alternatively, the British parliament could decide — despite all denialshier: Dementidenials from the government to date — to give the question back to the British people to decide again.

    In this incredibly messychaotisch; hier auch: verfahrenmessy situation, a second referendum on EU membership (or a “people’s vote” or whatever you want to call it) would be my preferred option. The three options listed above would then be on the referendum menu. But this time, all British citizens in other EU countries should be allowed to vote, even those like myself who have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years and who were excluded last time.

    I’m not to hold one’s breathdie Luft/den Atem anhaltenholding my breath expecting that to happen. And it would no doubt be very divisiveentzweiend, spaltenddivisive in the short termkurzfristig, auf kurze Sichtin the short term. But Britain is divided already. And, in the end, a second referendum could prove to be the only way to break the logjamBlockade, Stillstandlogjam.


    In his blog, Ian McMaster has been commenting on global business issues since 2002. You will find more of his blog posts here.