Don’t Panic Mr. Mainwairing, Don’t Panic!

Anyone that has ever watched Dad’s Army will recognise these famous words, usually frantically yelled by the blustering Private Jones as a situation dissolved into chaos…

Now, I’m not usually one to advocate panicking. Indeed, it’s usually a complete waste of time. In most situations of adversity, I tend to lean towards an attitude of ‘get up and get on with it’, but I have to admit that the latest announcement that Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s Ambassador to the EU, has resigned his post to be a little unsettling.

If our Prime Minister sticks to her guns, starting formal Brexit negotiations this Spring, we’ll need all the experience we can muster. Sir Ivan would have played a crucial role in the negotiations, and considering that the UK has a critical shortage of experienced negotiators, this comes as a bit of a blow.

Since his appointment in 2013, Sir Ivan was one of our leading advisors throughout David Cameron’s pre-Brexit renegotiations. According to the FT, Sir Ivan had a ‘longstanding’ relationship with Mrs May, who regularly consulted him on matters regarding Brexit. Despite this, staff at Number Ten seem to have had a less professional relationship with Sir Ivan and as relationships deteriorated, privileged information between Sir Ivan and Mrs May was leaked to the BBC.

Apparently, some people in this country are fed up of ‘experts’ i.e those who base their opinions on experience rather than sentiment. Despite Sir Ivan’s longstanding and distinguished career as UK ambassador, national papers began to declare public hatred for him after he advised that negotiations could continue up to 2020.

Add to this the outpouring of hatred for the independent judiciary in late 2016 and I’m starting to think our country is moving in a rather daft direction. Have we really just hounded from office a man known (to quote the FT) for ‘unvarnished advice’? Are we really so arrogant as to assume that just because we want something that we can have it, and that any advice to the contrary should be ignored and those who have expertise publicly attacked and ridiculed?

Personally, I think very little will change for the average citizen whether we stay in the EU or leave it. If you think leaving the EU will stop waste – national and regional governments still waste money. If you think it will regain us control of our borders, you clearly don’t understand how many skilled workers our country is attracting because of mass skills shortages.

On the other hand, if you think that once we leave the EU, you’ll never be able to visit or work in a foreign country, how do you think countries outside the EU end up inside it? They fill in some paperwork and get on with it. If you think our country is going to collapse, perhaps you forget we’ve been through two world wars and a civil war, and yet ‘England’ still stands.

As with all things, I argue for moderation. Take a balanced view and a considered approach to the upcoming changes our country faces. No matter which side of the debate you were on, we need to come together and keep our heads if we’re to make the most of whatever situation we’re heading for. Losing key members of our negotiating team months before negotiations start isn’t exactly a great opening move – could it be that Sir Ivan has an intimate knowledge of the challenges ahead and simply decided to get out whilst he could?

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