eu could learn a lot
Barbary Macaques – Gibraltar
Barbary Macaques – Gibraltar

There has been some strong language from some European Union representatives about Great Britain’s planned exit from the EU. Great Britain’s politicians have responded with strong words as both sides position themselves for the “Brexit” negotiations. Some of the 751 European Parliament members will be happy when Great Britain departs the scene because “they were never one of us!” Others will be concerned about Brexit because the EU will become more of a “GEU” with the weaker economies keeping the relative value of the Euro lower than the Deutschemark would be without it.

The EU’s economic performance has been poor for several years as it has continued to kick the can down the road instead of facing up to its member countries’ debt and other economic problems. It may have run out of road.

Great Britain is a major export market for Germany, France and Italy, a market they can’t afford to lose. Germany needs to protect its total export revenue, not just its exports to Great Britain, by hiding behind a Euro weakened by the economies of the southern European members of the EU. London is likely to remain the major financial center in Europe as Frankfurt is not a viable alternative. If it was Germany would have pushed for it years ago.

The EU has the weak economy, not Great Britain, and it will be even weaker after Brexit. Why then does Great Britain plan to leave the EU if it wasn’t for economic reasons? It couldn’t have been immigration because Great Britain has a long history of taking in immigrants from all over the world. Maybe it was the change in the mix of immigrants or the loss of sovereignty and their ability to determine who came into the country and when. Those decisions were made by the European Parliament and the Eurocrats, dominated by other countries, not the British people or their Parliament.

There are good economic reasons for the EU to want to discourage Great Britain, and any other of its member countries, from leaving. A smaller EU cannot support the large European Parliament and the 46,350 “Eurocrats,” principally from Belgium, France and Italy, unless there is a reduction in the size of their own governments and civil servants. When times are good countries usually don’t focus on the cost of government but when economies tank, as the EU has done, it is time to focus on the overhead costs.

On the sidelines some “bit players” have announced their intention to take advantage of the Brexit negotiations. The Leftists in Scotland want another referendum in the hope it will support their goals of becoming independent from Great Britain and remaining a member of the EU. They want to receive the revenue from the North Sea oil and gas fields but not contribute to Great Britain’s defense costs.

Spain with its floundering economy sees an opportunity to gain control of Gibraltar to benefit from its tourism, gambling and financial services revenue. In an earlier referendum the people of Gibraltar voted to remain part of Great Britain although they would like to remain in the EU. With Brexit they will have to decide which country they want to be dependent on, Great Britain or Germany because it will be “in” or “out.”

Other EU member countries will take the opportunity to redirect work into their own economies by excluding British companies from major contracts. The British will retaliate and a major trade war between some EU member countries and Great Britain is likely.

Gibraltar is an unusual territory/country. It has a population of about 30,000 people, significantly less than the number of Eurocrats in the EU, and 300 Macaques or Barbary Apes. This huge rock in the Mediterranean, attached to southern Spain by a narrow causeway, was settled by the Moors in the Middle Ages and like parts of North Africa was previously ruled by Spain.

Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht following the War of Spanish Succession. It was a strategic naval base and its people were protected by Great Britain during World War II. The main ethnic groups living on the rock are Spanish, Italian, English, Maltese, Portuguese, German and North African, and the main religion is Roman Catholic. There is tight border control between Gibraltar and Spain but over 7,000 Spanish workers cross the causeway each day to work in Gibraltar and about 13 million tourists visit the Rock each year.

The major tourist attraction in Gibraltar are the Macaques, referred to by the local population as the “monos” or monkeys, brought across to the Rock from Morocco and Algeria by British soldiers after 1713. Many of the monkeys live in the upper rock area of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve but their exposure to a large number of tourists, who feed and allow them to sit on their shoulder for a photograph, have made the monkeys dependent on humans and encouraged them to leave their habitat and go into town in search of food scraps.

Gibraltar Tourist with Barbary Macaques
Gibraltar Tourist with Barbary Macaques

The Barbary Macaques have become symbolic with Gibraltar and Great Britain’s rule over the territory, the two are inseparable. There is a well-known legend that says: as long as the Barbary Macaques exist on Gibraltar the territory will remain under British rule. It is taken seriously by the British and the inhabitants of Gibraltar, including the monkeys who have learned their survival skills from the tourists. Some of them have learned their survival skills too well. They pretend to be cute, cuddly and friendly but have learned to unzip bags and open pockets to steal food, cameras, passports and money from the tourists and the local inhabitants of Gibraltar.

The mischievous, devious little monkeys with no natural predators have expanded their domain and activities without really needing to go to work. They have been rewarded with snacks and other goodies, their photographs appear on social media and some have immigrated to Great Britain where their food, housing and medical expenses are covered.

In 2014, thirty of the most troublesome monkeys in Gibraltar were caught by local authorities and sent to entertain the tourists at the Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling in central Scotland. They have fitted in well with their skills at opening pockets and unzipping bags to forage for food and money. Although rumors were that Great Britain was behind the scheme to create a new legend: as long as the monkeys exist in Scotland it will remain under British rule.

What is certain, after Brexit the remaining EU “in” countries that were once called The Continent will be better known as “The Inkontinent” – uncontrolled and ungoverned, or as we once would say “unable to hold it together.” Without significant changes, to respect the sovereignty of its members, the EU will go down in history as a nice try that didn’t work. One of those changes should be to discontinue the European Parliament, find real work for the Eurocrats and return to being a free trade area along the lines of the old EEC or Common Market. But then Germany’s exports would be at risk as the Deutschemark is likely to be valued much higher than the Euro.

Ahsan Manzil: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Ahsan Manzil – Dhaka, Bangladesh

If the EU wants to continue without Great Britain’s financial contribution it will need to reduce the overhead costs to its remaining member countries. Many of its roles could be outsourced to the private sector, and the Parliament and Eurocrats relocated to a less expensive location. I have found just the place, the Ahsan Manzil. It was previously the palace of the Nawab of Dhaka and now is a museum. Dhaka already is a center of government, trade and culture, and has a strong manufacturing industry providing low cost clothing for major international brands. Labor is plentiful and wage rates are low.

All EU politicians and Eurocrats, who want to continue in their roles, could be offered a transfer to Dhaka to operate the EU Call Center, paid in local currency. The last time I checked one Bangladeshi Taka was worth 0.011 Euro. It is called the Bangladeshi test.

The EU is less than 25 years old and going backwards, the Macaques have existed and progressed on the Rock of Gibraltar for more than 300 years. The EU could learn a lot from those monkeys.


Image credits: The two photos of the Barbary macaques were taken by the author, Ken Peacock; Ahsan Manzil – Dhaka, Bangladesh photo by Mahbub Hossain Shaheed (mahosha) via Wikipedia and used under a Creative Commons license.
Ken Peacock

Ken Peacock

Ken Peacock, a former senior Australian executive of a mining company, first visited China in 1972 at the end of the Cultural Revolution and before diplomatic recognition by the Australian and US Governments. This was the first of many visits to China during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1978, he traveled throughout China with a trade delegation and revisited Shanghai where he stayed at the Shanghai Mansions Hotel and discovered the “Last Bottle of Gin in China”.