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Cafe Society to discuss the British withdrawal from the European Union

By Staff | Jul 29, 2016

The next session of the Cafe Society on Aug. 2 will focus on the factors that led British voters to decide to withdraw from the European Union. There are important political, economic and social lessons to be learned that bear directly on ferment here in the U.S. on a wide range of issues. Included are immigration policy, labor relations, social stratification, lack of ethnic and racial tolerance and a growing sense of insecurity. Our close identity with British political process and social values, particularly since World War II and the long Cold War struggle, should help us benefit from insight gained as they work to extricate themselves from the complex array of binding E.U. restrictions and agreements.

The informal weekly Cafe Society discussions, part of the Shepherd University Life Long Learning Program, are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the SU Student Center. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Cafe facilitator Mike Austin cautioned, “We should not lose sight of our own apprehension and hesitance here in the U.S. to fully buy into international organizations or commitments that place any constraint on American options in domestic and foreign affairs. The biggest concession that we seem to be able to make is to accept being ‘first among equals’ but never relinquishing visible aspects of sovereignty. So we can identify with our British counterparts’ growing concern as the body of E.U. regulatory powers has broadened and deepened penetrating nearly every aspect of economic and social life. Our own business community and foreign policy administrators have found the E.U. difficult to deal with, particularly when we have no direct role in their complex decision making procedures. We have delayed taking up this issue until the return of Dr. Jim Bowen from a visit to the U.K. in order to have his added insight into the intricacies of British politics as well as the E.U. His well-tempered remarks and inveterate penchant for research always adds a fresh and deeper dimension to our discussions.”

Austin added, “It is important that we view the British decision objectively in the context of other trials and tribulations that the E.U. members have faced in recent years. It is only natural that citizens of each member nation will view concessions or perceived inequalities negatively. Other member nations are struggling to live within E.U. guide lines — to find the political will to make unpopular adjustments to comply with decisions that they may not identify with. The protracted Greek government financial crisis comes to mind, and before that it was Portugal and Spain. It is too simplistic to lay the root cause for Britex at the feet of refugee or immigration policies alone. British power and influence have eroded significantly during the post- colonial era and the reverberations are still being felt. Yet it is remarkable that they have always remained a reliable and resourceful ally, and kept a stiff upper lip, as Argentina found out during the Falklands War. British pride and national identity are still extremely valuable components of their posture and influence in the international community. Their financial institutions, technological advances, and highly skilled human resources will enable the British Government to drive a hard bargain as the exit decision is implemented. U.S. policy makers should pay close attention since there may be valuable insight as we manage our own relationships within international organizations.”