Interview article by Jonathan Lopez
LONDON (ICIS)--The decision by UK voters to leave the EU (Brexit) should be a wake-up call for the bloc to reform, but the unelected politicians in Brussels are likely to ignore voters' concerns, the CEO of Austrian polymers and fertilizers producer Borealis said this week.
Mark Garrett, an Australian national, said the unexpected result of the 23 June referendum in the UK and the lack of an exit plan by government and businesses showed how the establishment was cut off from ordinary people.
“I was surprised [by the result]. My expectation was it would be close, but I wasn’t the only one to be surprised – I saw the look on Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage’s faces [two prominent UK supporters of the Leave campaign]. And now you have the UK government scrambling to work out what to do,” said Garrett.
While the UK's departure from the EU represents the first breakaway from the 28-country union, Borealis’ CEO believes it may not be the last if EU politicians do not start paying attention to people’s concerns.
In the long run, however, it may prove difficult to get closer integration among the remaining EU members because the disparity of legal and economic systems is overwhelming, added Garrett.
“I think that if the people in Brussels don't take Brexit as a wake-up call, there is going to be more pressure for change. They have what they call a project, but the EU and Europe can’t be a project and an experiment forever,” said Garrett.
“It has to be something based on fundamental logic and they need to think about that [but] I’m sceptical - you shouldn’t put things together which don’t belong together.”
The message that politicians are getting from voters is clear, Garrett went on to say, but one of the EU's fundamental problems is a lack of democracy in the way it chooses its representatives.
For instance, and despite a formal process of choosing the president of the Commission – the EU’s executive body – by the European Parliament, his name (there has never been a woman at the top) is normally agreed by the major powers within the EU.
The president of the European Council, the representative of heads of states and governments, is chosen behind closed doors by the same people he represents. (There has never been a woman in this position either).
Any change in the EU to improve its functionality, or the lack of it, will make good reading for years to come, said Garrett.
“I’ll watch it with great interest when I retire to Australia,” he said.