Challenging Habitat Blog

Four and a half years after the referendum on Britain’s EU membership resulted in the drive to leave the EU, it is rather telling that the last days of negotiations around a deal with the EU  are labelled ‘final throwing of dice” in this country.

Four and a half years of wasting chances and low probability for success have gone because the intentions of main players were never aligned.

It is sad and frustrating in equal measure that it has come to this.

If we learn something from the year 2020, it should include this: when we focus on what we all have in common, instead on what sets us apart, we can achieve a lot.

What hope for cooperation borne out of empathy and solidarity is there for the even bigger challenges ahead?

I’m thinking of climate change, sustainable development, poverty, inequality, to name a few.

Perhaps we need to start at an individual scale, as hoping for the system that breaks, us to fix us, is futile.

Brexit is good for some industries: tarmac, concrete, and chemical toilets, for example.

A 27 acre parking lot for up to 2000 lorries queueing up for customs clearing ahead of crossing the Channel to the European Union is being constructed on a green field site in Kent near the M20 at Ashford, according to the Independent.

Taking back control‘ for the good people of Kent means having no voice where the so called ‘Farage Garage‘ is being constructed. It’s not pretty and it will feature Portaloos to cater for hauler’s most basic needs.

Good job that Kent voted largely in favour of Brexit (59%), including Ashford, and that, of course, will sweeten the blow. For some.

Kent is not the only county with ports to Europe, and 28 other lorry parks are planned in other areas of Kent, as well as in Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Solihull, Essex, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Shame about all that land that could be more positively used for some of the 30,000 hectares of trees that will be planted annually, as announced recently in the Prime Minister’s ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution for 250,000 jobs‘ (9. Nature: Protecting and restoring our natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs).

Beyond that, the parking lots will actually increase the country’s greenhouse gas emissions: from quarrying and mining for building materials to the idling of lorry engines for heating and cooling, it is a waste!

Neither will the stationary time improve the wellbeing of the drivers or timely delivery of goods.

One of the unforseen consequences, of which we will discover more in months to come.

Featured Image: “Visit Kent, lorry park of the UK” by User:Colin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Like you, I am European and I live in the UK. By accident of birth and shifting borders, I carry a German passport.

I reflect on history, the bad bits (lots of human suffering at the level of individual and collectively) and the good bits (when society thrived through cooperation and solidarity).

I conclude that being part of a bigger whole is infinitely more desirable than striving to be great and powerful alone, to be the biggest of all.

In the belief that history is a great teacher and the foundation upon which we develop foresight and wisdom,


* Johnson, plus D Cummings, J Rees-Mogg, D David, N Farage et al.

Do we care?

Sometime between 7 and 8 am this morning I heard something on the Today programme (BBC Radio 4) that stunned me.

It was a piece about the government’s thoughts regarding a point-based immigration system, which favours highly qualified individuals who are going to contribute to the high tech economy the government is aspiring to. It mentioned that individuals who are not highly qualified, will not be able to enter the UK in the future, including people who supply catering and care providers with a high proportion of the required work force.

None of that stunned me – it’s been on the cards since BREXIT was on the cards. No, it was the government’s statements that the lack of care workers will be compensated for by introducing ‘automation and technology’. That stunned me on two counts:

1) People who need care are apparently not valued. They are not worth a decent wage for their carers. Even after BREXIT, people who want to work as carers, and are eligible to live in the UK, are not going to be offered an income that enables them to take up those jobs.

2) The skills, personal touch and conversation carers bring into the lives of people who require care are not valued – we can replace that by ‘automation and technology’, which means that the carers themselves are not valued.

I suggest the ministers and their advisers, who came up with this, spend a week as residents in a care home, so that they can experience what carers do for the cared for. And I suggest that they spend a week in a care home that provides ‘automated care’ and lots of ‘technology’. Maybe then they will finally realise that we Europeans were not such a blight after all….

Jonathan Pie for President (err, Prime Minister)!

This says it all!

Of course, there are many platforms from which one can argue for or against BRexit: economy, solidarity, self-determination, global citizenship, money, peace, environment, to name a few. And of course, some say BRexit was going to restore democracy in Britain.

Well, I’m sure I am not alone with identifying the irony in yesterday’s ‘postponement’ of the ‘meaningful vote’ in parliament by Theresa May: Having realised that the outcome of this ‘meaningful vote’ will not support her BRextit deal, she simply delayed it. Until such time when parliament will support it (…after touring EU countries to tweak some details, which the EU made clear are not tweakable…).

If holding-a-vote-only-when-winning-it-is-certain is now the strategy of New Democracy in Britain, then anything goes.

So, how about holding a second referendum? The reality of leaving the EU portrayed to the people has changed, more detail has emerged, expert advice has been published…so surely a second referendum on staying or leaving the EU is now no less democratic than not allowing parliament to vote on May’s BRexit deal until such time …..


Thank you, Home Office! My application was successful and I have Permanent Residence status. For now.

Of course, I have this right while the UK is member of the EU. Therefore, the Home Office news updates keep telling me how valued we Europeans are in our contributions to the British economy and how we Europeans don’t need to do anything at the moment to ascertain our rights to remain. Quite. We are encouraged to wait and carry on contributing to the economy until BREXIT bites (or some 2 years after that).

For now, I can live with the illusion that after BREXIT I have a choice. However, my Permanent Residence was granted under existing EU laws, and whether or not in 2019 or 2021 the shiny new permit card in my possession will be worth the paper it was printed on, is something else.


my BREXIT uncertainty

europeanflagI arrived in the UK in 1993 from continental Europe. I have learned here and invested a lot of my life in this country. I love living here, especially because I thought to be among people who are generally good at ‘live and let live’ while still caring – maybe people here are not perfect at this, but appear much better at it than where I come from. I’ve got a job I like and that allows me to give something back to society through education and research. I’ve got family and friends here.

I thought I could continue to shape my life without worrying about whether or not I have a right to be here. That right was a given and as I’ve always felt more European than anything else (except, maybe, eine Unterfränkin, but that’s a parochial joke and irrelevant here), I could not imagine this ever to change.

But it has. My world, as it relates to living in the UK, has become uncertain by the result of a referendum that was called for the wrong reasons, the campaigns for which were at best poor and at worst misleading on all sides, the outcome of which was not thought through by those who were responsible for thinking it out.

I’ll be applying for permanent residence to keep my options open. I know that it is irrational, but at the moment, I refuse to accept that my options should be curtailed by BREXIT after living here all this time.

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