An Open Letter from an Italian British citizen with businesses in the UK and Europe: Italy looks set to follow Britain out of Europe. As Europe fractures, what will replace it?

Dr Maurizio Bragagni OBE
6 min readFeb 27, 2019

Britain has always been a beacon of democracy — an exemplar. It is leaving Europe: the departure is uncomfortable and the journey beyond uncertain.

But it is the unravelling of the European Union that keeps me awake at night. Britain is leaving, and Italy vacillates about its own position on leaving the EU.

I am Italian born, a British citizen, a businessman whose cable company manufactures in both countries and exports worldwide. I am invested in Europe, I’m invested in Britain and I’m worried, not about business, but about something much, much bigger.

We should take a breath and consider how and why Europe came about. It was born in the aftermath of WWII. The war saw adjacent countries fighting, killing, torturing, imprisoning their neighbours, assimilating land and spreading destruction.

That devastation, the lowest point in continental Europe’s modern history, could not be allowed to happen again. Post-war there was an agreement to work together, to rebuild, to trade and to build a brighter future together as members of one over-arching democracy with fairness for all.

It was Winston Churchill who ignited a will to make it happen.

In Churchill’s famous ‘Speech to the academic youth’ at the University of Zurich in 1946, he said:

“There is a remedy which … would in a few years make all Europe … free and … happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe.”

My business, my family business, began with a war-devastated village in Tuscany, cut off from supplies and community thanks to the targeted destruction of strategic bridges by German forces. My business was a war baby. It began with my family applying engineering skills to rebuilding bridges and grew to connecting networks from communications, power, road and rail to marine and offshore utilities.

Today Britain’s two-house parliamentary system is the benchmark for fair, just and representative policy-making, and one that is much copied. It sets examples.

Today’s Europe was Britain’s vision for a safe and happy future.

Today Italy is forging a new and different path with unproven parties and an influx of unseasoned politicians and an Italian European exit is much talked about.

Although a Remain voter, I am on-board with the democratic vote in this country. Why? Because supporting every effort to make this a break-with-mutual-benefits is what we all have to do for the good of the UK economy and every one of its stakeholders. That’s those in politics, those on its fringes, people running businesses and the people working in them.

I am worried about leaving gaps. Gaps spell wider division. Divisions are what Europe was born to heal.

Brexit is not going to affect my business, but whether it does or not I want to make clear one thing — THE most important thing now is to do what Britain has always done and show world-class democracy in action.

The first referendum was a mistake, to correct a mistake with another mistake is a disaster.

The referendum held a mirror to the feeling of the British people, just over half voted leave, but that feeling is just that, an opinion. It’s not a bond, it is not mandatory, the power is with the people’s representatives in the house. As a world-class leader in democracy the House must find solutions, within a democratic framework — and there are more than one. And there are those darker, wider impacts to consider — the hole Britain leaves and the tremors in its wake.

1. The House could vote to rescind consideration of the result of a referendum and stay in Europe — it has the power to do it. Whether it has the courage to do it is another thing.

2. It can implement the prime minister’s deal: deliver what the majority wanted — but not yet. With the majority Mrs May’s party had previously — because there was doubt about Brexit — that was an option, but lost that opportunity.

3. To go ahead with their Brexit means to get out on 29th march with no deal.

Another referendum would see the House concede its power. In the first three scenarios elected representatives in parliament still hold power. They take responsibility for their decisions and respond to their own constituents. To my mind the only way forward is through the House. Part of the problem is that constituency MPs didn’t know how their communities would vote or what prompted their decision. The evidence is that there was no one unique trend behind Brexit.

There are still factions for hard or soft Brexit, people saying ‘no’ to immigration, people happy for a no deal with Europe.

When Greenland left the EU it really had only one issue, fish.

Brexit has so many diverse drivers. The reality is, international relationships cannot be decided in a referendum.

People voted against what they didn’t like — austerity, the party in power, regulations ‘not invented here’. They didn’t think about how or what would replace it.

The referendum really wasn’t about leaving Europe, it was about a disconnected, disliked string of issues and practices — a bit like condemning a faultless luxury holiday because you got bitten by a mosquito.

What the government has done is empower an opinion. A referendum upheld as ‘a decision’ means that it’s impossible to withdraw the intent to deliver, even if that is not in the country’s best interests.

While that would be a disaster, worse still would be the postponement of Article 50, creating more uncertainty, another two years of it to be precise. While it would bring more time to reach a better deal, the waiting would be the death of the economy.

The most sensible and pragmatic thing to do is have that deal — and with it we are out, we have certainty, we’ll recover. We’re not going to be out or stronger without a deal.

Delaying a decision won’t make it a better decision — procrastination won’t solve the issues and won’t move us forward.

As an Italian I am worried about Italy following Britain, as a British citizen I’m worried about Britain’s position and with one foot in each nation I am most worried about the potential risks as Europe fractures and unravels.

Support the PMs deal and we get a deal. Then we deal with certainties and we get to work.

Of all the options, it’s the best chance for Britain, we need to retain some control and have the courage of our convictions; most of Britain voted out.

I offer an example from the Italian constitution where we have a referendum. We have a referendum that can do away with the law, that can confirm law or simply offer an opinion from the people. But has to achieve a quorum. There is a minimal level of participation. For example to abrogate (do away with) there needs to be at least 50 percent of the people voting.

In Italy there are some subjects that cannot be the subject of referenda, international trade is one example. So Italy’s decision whether to leave the EU cannot be decided by a referendum, only by Government.

Now is the ONLY time to get the deal done, because the world is about to change. A customs war between US and China is rising. It is already affecting growth — look at Germany and Italy.

The world is going into a recession — an economic recession. So the UK needs to be ready to approach the new recession and must have strong relationships with its neighbours and allies. The storm-riders of this new recession are emerging countries. It will be as bad as the last — we need the tools in place to manage it. So we have to take the right decisions now. We are wasting time on Brexit. Fiddling while Rome burns is not an option.

Maurizio Bragagni

--

--

Dr Maurizio Bragagni OBE

Author, Speaker, Hon. Consul @consolatorsmuk San Marino in U.K. NED @esharelife @IECstandards MSB member @BayesBSchool Hon. Sen. Vis. Fellow