fresh start

Brexit, a Chance to Build Bridges

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Brexit is not an end but a chance to build new bridges and for a fresh start, writes Bilfinger’s chief executive.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Britain is Germany’s third-largest trading partner.
    • Theresa May outlined plans for Britain to withdraw from the E.U. single market, a so-called “hard Brexit,” in a speech on January 17.
    • Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Britain should seek a Swiss-type deal with the European Union in an interview with NZZ newspaper.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show
Many hoped to avoid a hard Brexit but now, might it also bring possibilities? Source: Reuters [M]

Global challenges are increasing, whether we’re talking about competition over ideas, opinions or locations. It applies to prosperity, the flow of goods and for peace. And the answer to many of these challenges is the European Union. Europe’s countries are stronger when united.

I believe that strength only comes when people stand together, particularly in this present moment. At the same time, Europe has to keep proving that it offers real added value in meeting the global challenges we face. That’s the only way to strengthen people’s trust in Europe.

The United Kingdom’s referendum was a tough life lesson. Brexit will now come one way or the other. On the path towards it, both sides should recall their strong shared interests.

For me, Britain is clearly a part of Europe. And now more than ever ... we need to do is build bridges that link Britain and the European Union closer together.

I am a British citizen. Born in Hamburg, I now work for a German company and know both countries well.

Europe offers many opportunities, including a shared living space where no borders restrict where people can work. At the same time, the 52 percent of Britons who voted for Brexit deserve answers to their worries.

Bilfinger remains committed to its business in Britain. With 4,000 employees, we provide engineering and services that will continue to be in demand after Brexit. Although Brexit will affect us less because our activities are typically local, we cannot be indifferent to the effects it may have.

There are 2,000 German companies active in Britain with more than 400,000 employees. The British share of the E.U.’s total economic output is more than 14 percent. Nearly half of British exports go to the E.U.; the British receive around half of their imports from the E.U. And the U.K. is one of Germany’s most important global trading partners.

Given these figures, I’m confident that the discussions between the E.U. and the U.K. will proceed in a constructive atmosphere that is pragmatic and reasonable. The focus must continue to be on shared interests: promoting mobility, enhancing economic power and creating jobs.

For me,  Britain is clearly a part of Europe. And now more than ever, it’s important to clarify our thinking about Europe. What we need to do is build bridges that link Britain and the European Union closer together.

As sad as it is to sever this tried-and-true bond, I believe Brexit is not an end but a new beginning, one that we as Europeans must work to shape together!

 

To contact the author: gastautor@handelsblatt.com.

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